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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Dems should not even think about going wobbly on the shutdown. In addition to the stock market meltdown, “An estimated 800,000 federal employees may be impacted by the partial shutdown, either by having to work during it while their pay is withheld until it ends or by being furloughed,” reports Clare Foran at CNN Politics. “More than 420,000 government workers are expected to work without pay in a partial shutdown, according to a fact sheet released by the Democratic staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That estimate includes more than 41,000 federal law enforcement and correctional officers. In addition, more than 380,000 federal employees would be placed on furlough, according to the fact sheet.” Dems could not ask for better proof that Trump, McConnell and Ryan govern by chaos, complete with video clips that depict Trump arrogantly bragging about it. Trump and his GOP enablers control all branches of government, and they own the shutdown and the meltdown. Dems must make sure everyone understands it.

At Vox, however, Dylan Scott argues that “Voters don’t hold grudges against the party that shut down the government…They are feeling too fatigued to notice or remember it…The historical record is pretty persuasive at this point: Voters don’t hold grudges against the party that shut down the government…Republicans owned the shutdown in 2013; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made himself famous for reading Green Eggs and Ham from the Senate floor while urging the Democratic majority to defund their signature health care law. Polling at the time found more than 60 percent of the public disapproved of how the GOP was handling the shutdown. In November 2014, Republicans won 13 House seats and, more importantly, nine Senate seats to take a majority in the upper chamber and assume full control of Congress. During this year’s earlier multi-day shutdown, voters blamed Democrats and Trump in almost equal measure. The punishment for Democrats was winning 40 House seats and sweeping back into power in Congress on a blue wave…Surveys already show that people would blame Trump and Republicans for a shutdown now. But there is just little reason to think at this point that there will be any meaningful political aftershocks for the upcoming shutdown. For one thing, it will be a long time until voters go back to the polls. Many of the members of Congress who will be up for election in 2020 aren’t even in office yet. So much could happen before then.”

So, how does the public feel about the shutdown? “According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 57 percent of Americans think Trump should “compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock,” reports Dhrumil Mehta at FiveThirtyEight, “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…After the government closed for 16 days in 2013, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that more Americans placed responsibility for the impasse on Republicans than on President Obama. And nearly 3 in 5 Republicans said they disapproved of how their party handled the shutdown negotiations.” However, “in the aftermath of the 2013 shutdown, Obama arguably didn’t escape unscathed: His favorable rating dipped below his unfavorable rating for the first time in his presidency. Government shutdowns can have serious political fallout in the short run for everyone involved.”

For more evidence of GOP government by chaos, read Michael Tomasky’s NYT op-ed, “The Steady Bedlam of the Trump White House,” which notes: “On Dec. 17, Brookings Institution scholars Elaine Kamarck, Kathryn Dunn Tenpas and Nicholas W. Zeppos released a report called “Tracking Turnover in the Trump Administration.” The study analyzes turnover among what the authors call the president’s “A Team” — the few dozen most influential positions within the executive office of the president — and among Cabinet members…Among the 65 Trump A Team members, they find, 42 positions have turned over, for a rate of 65 percent. Seventeen of these vacancies occurred because the person was promoted, 14 because the person “resigned under pressure” and 11 because the person simply resigned…The 65 percent turnover rate for the first two years is considerably higher overall than that of Mr. Trump’s five immediate predecessors. In Barack Obama’s first two years, his A Team turnover rate was 24 percent (Mr. No Drama!). George W. Bush’s rate was 33 percent. Bill Clinton’s was 38 percent. George H.W. Bush’s was 25 percent…If we extrapolate the Brookings numbers out, Mr. Trump is on track to have a four-year turnover rate of greater than 100 percent — that is, to have all 65 A Team positions change hands at least once. All of which makes the ‘Republicans govern by chaos’ meme an irresistably easy sell.

Is it realistic for Democrats to hope that Chief Justice Roberts will become more centrist in his rulings?  At The New York Times, Adam Liptak writes that “Chief Justice Roberts’s voting record has been generally conservative. On issues of racial discrimination, religion, voting and campaign finance, his views are squarely in the mainstream of conservative legal thinking…He voted with five-justice majorities in District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 Second Amendment decision that established an individual right to own guns; Citizens United, the 2010 campaign finance decision that amplified the role of money in politics; and Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 voting rights decision that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act.” Roberts was the lead staffperson for voter suppression in the Reagan white house. Also, “In June, Mr. Trump won the biggest case of his presidency so far, when Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion sustaining the administration’s order limiting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.” Nor is there any reason to hope that Roberts will protect worker rights, when threatened by powerful companies. Roberts has shown some moderation in rulings on assylum policy, climate change and health care. Liptak explains, “by casting the decisive vote to save Mr. Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, he transformed his reputation. Liberals hailed him as a statesman. Conservatives denounced him as a traitor.” History shows that a few conservative justices did become more progressive during their tenure, including Earl Warren, Hugo Black, Byron White and David Souter, all of whom seemed to mature in a more humanitarian direction. Still, the wisest course for Dems regarding Roberts is to plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Paul Krugman explores “The Case for a Mixed Economy” at The New York Times, and notes, “the choice is still between markets and some kind of public ownership, maybe with some decentralization of control, but still more or less what we used to mean by socialism…there are some areas, like education, where the public sector clearly does better in most cases, and others, like health care, in which the case for private enterprise is very weak. Add such sectors up, and they’re quite big.” Krugman argues that government directly or indirectly funds about a third of American jobs (15 percent government workers + another 15 or so percent employed in education, health care and ‘social assistance”). He sees a public sector employing a third of workers as a healthy share of a stable economy at present, with room for public sector growth in utilities and possibly pharmaceuticals, as Elizabeth Warren has suggested. In any case, it would help if the MSM showed a little more understanding that most Americans want a mixed economy with a sizable public sector.

In “Other Polling Nuggets,” FiveThirtyEight’s Dhrumil Mehta notes 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.” Shutdowns come and go. But the public’s legitimate concerns about health security now seems a more permanent feature of America’s political landscape.

Miles Rappaport and Cecily Hines see “A New Playing Field for Democracy Reform” at The American Prospect: “Perhaps the most amazing thing about the 2018 midterms was the turnout itself. The latest estimates are that 116 million people voted, compared with 83 million in 2014. That striking turnout clearly helped fuel the Blue Wave, both in Congress and at the state level. The turnout of constituencies voting Democratic was even enough to overcome the walls of gerrymandering in many districts, at both the congressional and state levels. In the states, the shifts in state control were not a full-scale tsunami, but they were significant enough to dramatically shift the equation on democracy issues going forward…the results of election-related ballot initiatives were, in a word, stunning. A remarkable element of these wins was that most of the ballot initiatives passed by more than 60 percent, meaning that they had strong bipartisan voter support…Leading these results was the mammoth victory in Florida of Amendment 4, with almost 65 percent of the voters supporting the restoration of voting rights to 1.4 million former felons. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition led an extraordinary campaign that received bipartisan support, including from evangelical churches that believe in redemption. This will be transformative of democracy in Florida…Michigan had two major ballot initiative victories: one that created an independent redistricting commission, and a second, multifaceted initiative that enacted same-day registration, automatic registration, a constitutionally mandated post-election audit, and enhanced voting rights for veterans and military and overseas voters…in 2018, five states passed ballot initiatives that changed the redistricting process in a positive direction: Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, and, in a cliffhanger, Utah, all on Election Day. In addition, Ohio passed a significant reform by ballot initiative back in May as the result of negotiations between advocates and the legislature.”

In “Amid government shutdown, a host of bigger worries” at Post Politics, Michael KranishJoe Heim Steve Hendrix have a quote by “Jon Meacham, the presidential historian and author of “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” who “said the shutdown comes at a defining moment in America, as an anxious public yearns for Washington to calm down and start solving the nation’s problems. “In a sense, American history can be understood as a perennial battle between fear, which manifests itself in a politics and culture of exclusion and defensiveness, and hope, which manifests itself in inclusion and larger-heartedness,” said Meacham, who delivered one of the eulogies for former president George H.W. Bush earlier this month…“We’re now immersed in a fearful time, a moment where we speak of walls and tariffs rather than the free flow of ideas and people and goods. But here’s the good — or at least goodish — news: History tells us that hope tends to win in the long run…“Right now, there’s Trump. But if folks work hard enough, soon there’ll be a restoration of dignity and forward thinking. That’s the task.”

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