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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Harry Cheadle’s “The Shutdown Is Mitch McConnell’s Fault: The Senate majority leader can end the shutdown by defying Trump. He’s just refusing to do so” at Vice provides an instructive angle on the current mess. Cheadle writes, “Trump could of course veto any spending bill passed by Congress, but a two-thirds majority could override his veto and end this stalemate. The only thing that’s required is a bit of courage on the part of Republicans…For such a veto override to take place, 55 Republicans in the House and 20 in the Senate would have to join with the Democrats and defy Trump…Republicans, and in particular Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could restore what passes for normality in this era any time they wanted to…Initial polls found the public blamed Trump for the shutdown, but subsequent polls contained evidence that people also blamed Congress—in one recent survey, 58 percent of respondents disapproved of Republicans’ handling of the affair, compared to 51 percent disapproval for Democrats…the path that McConnell has evidently chosen—is to embrace rank partisanship by holding Trump’s line and forcing some government employees to work without pay in support of a wall most Americans don’t even want.”

In his Washington Post column, “After Trump’s dud, it’s up to the Senate GOP,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. also sees McConnell as culpable, “Trump is willing to keep hundreds of thousands of government workers idle and unpaid. He lacks the guts to stand up to Coulter and her allies…Which means that the only path forward is for sensible souls to pressure McConnell and other Senate Republicans to stop enabling the blusterer in chief and put bills on Trump’s desk to reopen the government. Already, at least three Republican senators (with others titling that way) have said it’s time to do this. More should join them.”

From “Democrats Focus on Shutdown’s Cost and Steer Away From Trump’s Wall” by Julie Hirschfield Davis at The New York Times: “While Mr. Trump has launched an elaborate public-relations effort to draw Democrats into a debate over the wall itself — even the material to be used to construct it — Democrats are just as determined to talk instead about a more universally resonant theme: the need to get the government open and functioning while negotiations continue….Obviously, there are some Democrats who talk about the wall being immoral or inconsistent with American values, but across the spectrum of Democrats, there is an emphasis on the degree to which the wall is waste of taxpayers’ money and irrelevant to addressing the most important challenges we face with regard to immigration in the country,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster…Nick Gourevitch, a pollster and communications strategist who advised Democrats during the midterm campaign on Mr. Trump’s fear-soaked immigration message, said Democrats are sticking to the simplest and freshest argument they have to appeal to a public that does not focus on the finer points of border security policy.”

Here’s a couple of good talking points for Democrats about what the shutdown actually means for national security, from an editorial on “Borderline Insanity” at The New York Times: “Mr. Trump’s spiteful choice to shut parts of the government is only making the situation messier. Immigration judges are being furloughed, further slowing the processing of asylum requests. Border Patrol agents are working without pay, eroding morale. In perhaps the choicest twist of fate, some $300 million in new contracts for wall construction cannot be awarded until the shutdown ends.” Meanwhile, Dan Lamothe notes at The Washington Post that 6400 of the Coast Guard’s 8500 civilian workforce is on furlough and 2100 more are working witout pay.

In yet another white house tantrum, Drama Boy Trump walks out of his own meeting, with little concern for the collapse of essential government services. “The breakdown left no end in sight to the shutdown even as its effects spiral around the nation on services for farmers, food inspection services and national parks,” report Erica WernerSean SullivanMike DeBonis Seung Min Kim at The Washington Post. In his earlier meeting witjh Republicans, “Moderate Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) pleaded with Trump to reopen the government, according to lawmakers present…Collins urged Trump to consider a previous deal she was a part of that would trade $25 billion for the wall for permanent protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump dismissed that idea.”

In her FiveThirtyEight article, “Trump Has Lost Ground In The Shutdown Blame Game,” Janie Valencia reports that “Trump’s efforts to pin the blame on Democrats aren’t working, according to three pollsters who have conducted at least two polls in the two and a half weeks since the government first closed. Rather, polls show that Americans are increasingly blaming Trump…Polls conducted in the first few days of the shutdown showed that between 43 percent and 47 percent of Americans blamed Trump most for the shutdown, while about a third blamed congressional Democrats. Polling data had been pretty scarce thereafter, but this week a handful of new polls gave us an updated view of who Americans think is responsible. (We’re looking only at data from pollsters who have conducted two surveys since the shutdown started — one just after it began and one after the new year. This makes for nice apples-to-apples comparisons.)..The two YouGov polls found a 4-point increase in those blaming Trump. There was a 4-point increase among registered voters who most blamed Trump in the two Morning Consult polls. And surveys from Reuters/Ipsosalso found a 4-point increase…As for where Democrats stand in the blame-game, Morning Consult found a 2-point increase in those who blame them the most between their two polls, while Ipsos/Reuters found a 1-point drop and YouGov found a 3-point drop…In the most recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, for example — conducted Jan. 4-7 — more Americans disapproved of Trump’s handling of the shutdown (52 percent) than they did of the way Democrats were handling it (46 percent), but 56 percent of Americans expressed disapproval of the congressional GOP’s performance…His job approval rating has edged down in the past three weeks — a trend that lines up almost perfectly on the calendar with the shutdown.”

Ruy Teixeira has a two-parter on the “Green New Deal” at his web page, The Optimistic Leftist. Among Teixeira’s strategic insights, from Part II: “The GND can and should be sold as a growth program because an effective approach to the clean energy transition (full employment, massive public investment) both needs and should facilitate strong growth…It is odd that the left does not stress this connection more than it does. This may have something to do with prevalence of anti-growth sentiments in some of the greener parts of the left. These sentiments could not be more misguided…instead of arguments for growth, we are more likely to hear arguments for “degrowth” from green activists, on the belief that, on our current trajectory, we cannot possibly continue to grow and hit reasonable climate targets.” You can read Part I here.

Teixeira also flags an article in The Economist, “Gerrymandering Is Still a Problem But It Isn’t Working Like It Used To,” and notes “There’s been relatively little comment about this but it’s interesting to note that Democrats got about 54 percent of the House 2-party vote and….about 54 percent of the House seats.” One of Teixeira’s Faceboopk commenters notes that “I always felt those white suburbs were winnable because they are easily canvassable as compared to rural areas and very urban areas.” Another adds that gerrymandering is “Still a factor in state legislative races. Wisconsin legislature: Dems 54% of votes, 36% of seats.”

Few political candidates have former President Obama’s speaking skills. But his “What took you so long?” question to Republican “leaders” is one that many Democratic candidates could tweak into a potent refrain for their 2020 campaigns:

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