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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “As Trump Comes Apart, Can Democrats Come Together?,” at The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner notes, “Democratic candidates found a winning formula on the issues—call it kitchen-table economics. Even candidates who considered themselves fairly centrist ran on such issues as defending and expanding Social Security; offering a buy-in to Medicare; cracking down on drug company pricing; dealing with the student debt crisis; and launching a large-scale public infrastructure program. The supposed ideological distance between the party left and center narrowed. Progressive became the new moderate…There is a principled family quarrel here between the Clinton/Obama center-left and the progressive left. It often gets conflated with two other discussions about moderation and centrism that are the subject of ongoing spin wars. It’s true that voters tend to describe themselves as moderates, but on all the key issues—Social Security, Medicare, education, drug prices, infrastructure—their opinions align with progressives. The genius of the midterm theme was presenting kitchen-table progressive issues not as radical but as common-sense.”

Matthew Yglesias explains why “The latest Obamacare ruling is part of a larger conservative attack on democracy” — and how Democrats should address it at Vox: “The case will, of course, wend its way up to higher courts where hopefully cooler, more humane heads will prevail. But whether they do depends not just on the law but on the political context. The rhetoric and practice of actual majoritarian populism — rather than simply assuming Chief Justice Roberts will do the right thing — is critical in moments like this. Judicial conservatives will be restrained in their activism if and only if they believe that defying the will of the people on such consequential matters will lead to their delegitimization. It’s a fear they ought to have. But one which will only develop if progressive leaders are able to move beyond excessive fear of populism and learn to speak the language of popular majoritarianism and democratic self-rule.”

Are Republicans Crazy Enough to Kill Obamacare Like This?,” asks Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. If the appeal of the Obamacare ruling gets to the Supreme Court, as now seems likely, Tomasky believes that there are three options “One, they can decide not to hear it and let the Fifth Circuit’s decision stand. Two, they can uphold the Obamacare repeal. Three, they can overturn the Fifth Circuit and save Obamacare…For now, I bet—and obviously, I hope—that the court will choose option three. John Roberts, I think, will join the four liberals in striking down this decision. The legal basis is simple and has to do with the judge not acknowledging Congress’ intent in treating separate sections of the law separately (“severability,” in the parlance)…He’s shown awareness in the past (indeed in the first Obamacare case) about the court’s standing and the real-world ramifications of its decisions…And even if he doesn’t care about millions of people with cancer, he cares about his court’s reputation, which will be destroyed if a majority follows this judge’s reasoning and produces an obvious political decision. Destroyed. Right now it’s polling about 50-40, approve over disapprove. I have no doubt those numbers would flip and stay flipped for a long time. Roberts cares about this.”

Some conservatives who oppose Obamacare also believe the ruling is dubious. “Ted Frank, a lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who is critical of the ACA, called the decision “embarrassingly bad” because “you’re twisting yourself into knots” to reach a particular conclusion,” notes Devlin Barrett in “Legal experts rip judge’s rationale for declaring Obamacare law invalid“, at The Chicago Tribune. “Over the past two years, Frank said, conservative lawyers such as he have complained when district court judges did similar intellectual gymnastics to attack Trump administration initiatives. “It’s not appropriate in the other direction, either,” he said.”

And there is plenty of anxiety about health care brewing in the public. In “Other Polling Nuggets,” at FiveThirtyEight Dhrumil Mehta cites findings indicating that “61 percent of Americans say they are concerned that they or a member of their immediate family will have to pay higher health-insurance premiums in the next few years, according to a Gallup poll. Forty-two percent said they were worried about themselves or someone in their family having to go without health insurance.”

Those who think Trump’s threat to “shut down the government” will somehow hurt Democrats should read Mehta’s “Americans Don’t Want A Government Shutdown Because Of The Border Wall,” which notes “According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 57 percent of Americans think Trump should “compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock,” while only 36 percent think he shouldn’t compromise even if that means a government shutdown. And that reflects a larger trend — in CBS News polls that have been conducted since July 2016,1 Trump’s border wall proposal has generally been unpopular, except among Republicans…In the new NPR/PBS News/Marist poll, 30 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Trump supporters said they thought he should compromise on the wall. And a CBS News poll from November found that 28 percent of those who favored Trump’s border wall did not believe that it was worth risking a partial government shutdown over.”

Can Democrats win a Senate majority in 2020. Here’s some of Kyle Kondik’s take at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Of the 34 Senate races on the ballot in 2020, Republicans already control 22 of them while Democrats hold only 12. That represents something of a role reversal from 2018, when Democrats had to defend 26 of 35 seats being contested…Overall, in order to win the Senate, Democrats probably will need to win Arizona and Colorado as well as at least a couple of the Leans Republican states: Georgia, Iowa, Maine, or North Carolina. That these crucial states begin with Republicans as small favorites points to a larger overall assessment: the GOP starts this cycle favored to hold the Senate. However, there is a plausible path for Democrats, particularly if a Democrat wins the presidency and provides some down-ballot coattails.”

The Secret to Winning in 2020: It’s the populism, stupid,” says David Leonhardt in his New York Times column. “There is only one quality — beyond, of course, charisma — that Democrats should demand in their nominee. The Democrats need a candidate who can and will run as an economic populist…They need a candidate who will organize the 2020 campaign around fighting for the little guy and gal. (And most of the potential Democratic nominees could do so.) It would be a campaign about Republican politicians and corporate lobbyists who are rigging the game, a campaign that promised good jobs, rising wages, decent health care, affordable education and an end to Trumpian corruption…More than 60 percent think taxes on upper-income people are too low, according to Gallup. Almost 70 percent say the same about corporations. A clear majority also favors expanded government health care, more college financial aid, a higher minimum wage and tougher anticorruption laws.

Minimum-wage increases often pass in a landslide, including in red states like Arkansas, Montana and Nebraska. Expansions of Medicaid also keep passing,” Leonhardt continues. “In Missouri last month, 62 percent of voters approved a law to rein in the influence of lobbyists (a law that the state’s Republican leaders are now trying to undermine)…These issues are politically potent because they unite the Democratic coalition and divide the Republican coalition…The Democratic base — including Africans-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, young college graduates and middle-class women — leans populist, polling shows. But so do the white-working class voters who often swing 21st-century elections…Democrats still aren’t going to win a majority of the white working class. But they don’t need to. They just need to avoid getting crushed. When they do that, they win elections.”

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