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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” explains why “A Runoff Election Tuesday Could Reverse Brian Kemp’s Voter Suppression in Georgia” at Mother Jones, and notes “John Barrow is the only former member of Congress with the unfortunate distinction of being drawn out of his district not once, but twice…Barrow, 63, calls himself “the most gerrymandered member of Congress in history.” His personal experience dealing with attempts to manipulate state voting laws led him to run this year for Georgia secretary of state, in a bid to become the state’s top election official. He trailed on Election Day by just 19,000 votes to Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger, but because neither candidate won an outright majority, a runoff election on Tuesday will decide the race—and the fate of Georgia’s suppressive voting practices…“For many years, most folks haven’t put much thought into the office of Secretary of State,” Barrow wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the election’s first round. “But on November 6th, all of us received a civics lesson on the importance of this office…Democrats flipped secretary-of-state offices in Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan in 2018. These victories will help reshape voting laws in key swing states. But given the voter suppression we saw in Georgia in 2018—and with Kemp now governor—a victory for Barrow would be the most significant of the bunch.”

“President Trump announced his intention late Saturday to quickly withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, a move intended to force House Democrats to enact a revised version of the pact despite concerns that it fails to protect American workers,” reports Glenn Thrush at The New York Times. “If the president follows through on his threat, congressional leaders will have six months to pass the measure. The agreement has been losing support in recent days as Democratic lawmakers, ready to take control of the House in January, reckon with fallout from the announcement last week that General Motors was planning to idle five plants in North America…Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who is likely to be elected speaker, cast doubt on the likelihood that the deal could be passed without significant new assurances from Mexico that labor standards in the agreement will be strictly enforced.”

At Post Partisan, Republican strategist Ed Rogers writes, “One bad thing about writing is that some of what you write doesn’t age well. My post on election night said that Democrats won the House, but Trump won the election. I need to walk that back. As the days have gone by, the election results have gotten worse for Republicans, and the analysis of what went wrong includes many bad omens for the GOP in 2020…The Democrats’ fundraising in 2018 — particularly among small donors — was also stunningly effective. Their ActBlue platform succeeded beyond anyone’s forecast, raking in a record haul of more than $1 billion…Michael Bloomberg’s last-minute money bombs were strategically placed and made a meaningful difference in several races…While midterms are not necessarily a good predictor of what will happen in the general electionRepublicans would be wise to reflect on the fact that Democrats just won the House by the largest midterm margin ever.”

“We submit that the party’s huge vote total advantage is the bigger story of these midterms, as this metric is more indicative of the longer-term strength of a party than seats won,” writes B.J. Rudell,  associate director of POLIS: Duke University’s Center for Political Leadership at The Hill. “Democrats increased their vote totals in over 96 percent of House districts. We could not find evidence of any comparable midterm-to-midterm jump in U.S. history…Were the 2018 midterms a Blue Wave? The answer is clear  — 2018 might not have yielded the electoral gains of 2010, but no midterm election in the past century or more has been so lopsided, which almost certainly suggests its impact will be felt in 2020.

In his article, “Want a Democrat in the White House? Reform the Primaries: With anywhere from ten to 30 presidential candidates, only ranked-choice voting can produce a viable nominee,” at The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson writes “The one way to ensure that the nominee actually is favored by a majority of Democratic voters is for the party to adopt a form of ranked-choice voting. Under this system, voters would be able to designate one candidate as their first choice, another as their second, and another as their third. Maine recently adopted such a system. The political parties would have to devise the system they want to use, but they would need the cooperation of the states, which would have to rework their computer systems to accommodate rankings.”

Democrats have a plan to stop GOP voter suppression,” reports Dan Desai Martin at Shareblue. “In the 116th Congress, our first order of business is giving democracy back to the people,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-MS) said at a Friday press conference introducing “HR 1,” the symbolically important first bill of the new session…HR 1 will focus on strengthening democracy, which Republicans have abandoned in their complicit acquiescence to the Trump agenda…“We will promote national automatic voter registration, bolster our critical election infrastructure against foreign attackers, and put an end to partisan gerrymandering once and for all by establishing federal guidelines to outlaw the practice,” Pelosi and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed…“Let’s make it easier, not harder, to vote in America,” Sarbanes said at the Friday press conference…Beyond strengthening voting rights, HR 1 also seeks to protect our democracy by fighting the corruption that tilts the playing field in favor of wealthy dark money organizations…According to draft legislation viewed by the Washington Post, the bill will set “new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations,” and help strengthen the impact of small donations to political campaigns…“Wealthy special interests shouldn’t be able to buy more influence than the workers, consumers and families who should be our priority in Washington,” Pelosi and Sarbanes wrote…To boost transparency, the bill will also require the president to release his or her tax returns.”

Paul Rosenberg’s Salon/Alternet article, “A prescription for stagnation and disaster: Here’s why Democrats must resist the ‘bipartisan’ trap” probes the realistic limits to cooperation between the two major parties. In this excerpt, he identifies some legislative priorities that poll so well that progressives can expect strong popular support at a level that could force enactment. As Rosenberg writes,  “There are some things progressives want that even majorities of conservatives support, as with the top tier of the Progressive Change Institute’s Big Ideas poll in early 2015, which I wrote about in July of that year in discussing Bernie Sanders’ popular appeal…The poll identified 16 ideas with 70 percent support or more, and don’t depend on any sort of “bipartisan compromise” as defined inside the Beltway. These range from allowing the government to negotiate drug prices (at 79 percent approval) to universal pre-K (77 percent), an end to gerrymandering (73 percent), debt-free public college (71 percent), Medicare buy-in for everyone (71 percent), and the “Green New Deal,” with its promise of millions of clean-energy jobs (70 percent).

At Brookings, Senior Fellow Isabel V. Sawhill has a warning and a recommendation for Democrats: “Democrats have re-taken the House, and already we’re hearing calls for investigations and greater accountability…But to the new members of the House prioritizing their long to-do lists, I’d like to offer some caution: If serving as a check on President Trump is all you manage to accomplish between now and 2020, your electoral victory may ultimately disappoint those who voted you into office, shrinking rather than growing your base and further increasing the public’s cynicism about government….Americans are most concerned with their low pay and poor benefits. They noted that there are plenty of jobs out there, and that jobs are easier than ever to find because of the Internet (and a strong economy). The problem, they insist, is that there aren’t enough good jobs….Yes, we need to address climate change, affordable health care, immigration reform, and other issues, but providing decent-paying jobs should be the top priority. In focus groups I have done with “the forgotten Americans” that’s what they say they want and that’s what it will take to restore their faith in government.”

From David Jarman’s “Here’s how the new Democratic members of the House sort out ideologically” at The Daily Kos:

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