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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “2020 Democrats Try to Woo Back Trump’s Union Voters” at The Daily Beast, Gideon Resnick shares some insights on the role of labor unions in the 2020 election: “Trump made inroads with labor in 2016. Those looking to unseat him now are making moves to ensure it doesn’t happen again…In 2016, the AFL-CIO supported Clinton but when they conducted exit polls on how their members voted in the presidential election, they saw a nine percentage point drop among active and retired members from the level of support Obama had. That decline, union officials say, is what could have contributed to the narrow margins of victory for Trump in Midwestern states…“It was much more of a drop off in enthusiasm for Clinton than it was a big shift of union voters from Obama to Trump,” Thea Lee, former deputy chief of staff for the AFL-CIO, told The Daily Beast…But union officials say Trump’s pitch seems to have faded and his hold on that voting bloc seems to have cracked, as evidenced by midterm results that saw Democrats gaining the governorships, House seats and holding Senate seats in the Midwest states that have often comprised the so-called Blue Wall. With those voters seemingly up for grabs in 2020, Democrats have made a concerted effort to speak the language of labor, talking more about disadvantaged workers, income inequality, wealth gaps and health care. Warren has advocatedfor allowing workers to elect at least 40 percent of board members for corporations with over $1 billion in revenue. Sanders has gone directly after Amazon and Walmart, successfully pushing the former company to raise wages for workers. Brown wants to eliminate incentives for offshoring for corporations that emerged as a byproduct of the recent GOP tax bill. And they’ve all talked about the importance of unions in restoring the middle class.”

Nate Silver comes right out and says what lots of Democrats are thinking, if not saying, in his FiveThirtyEight post,  “Everyone’s Running — And That Could Be Dangerous For The Democrats: When the field gets big, the primaries get weird.” As Silver writes, “The crowded field developing for 2020 doesn’t necessarily imply that an anti-establishment candidate will prevail. Even when party elites don’t get their first choice, they usually get someone they can live with. But the high number of candidates does imply a higher-than-usual risk of chaos.” In all likelihood, says Silver, “we’ll end up with a total of between 17 and 24 Democratic candidates, including the 10 (one since withdrawn) we have already…a very big, possibly even record-breaking field.”…larger fields are correlated with more prolonged nomination processes in which both voters and party elites have a harder time reaching consensus…But the past electoral cycles where the field was nearly as big as this one shouldn’t exactly be comforting to Democrats, and it should be particularly worrying for next-in-line candidates such as Biden. Democratic voters like a lot of their choices and feel optimistic about their chances of beating Trump in 2020. The large field is both a sign that there may not be consensus about the best candidate and a source of unpredictability.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore also sees the large Democratic presidential field as problemtic, and notes, “Putting aside the aforementioned 2016, 1972, and 1976 cycles, there have been seven other presidential fields that reached double digits: Democrats in 1988, 2004, and 2008, and Republicans in 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012. Only two of them produced victory, and that includes a 2000 George W. Bush election that required overtime and an intervention by the Supreme Court…So it’s reasonably safe to say that very large presidential fields have more often than not led to defeat and/or eccentric nominees. They’ve also often produced nominees who didn’t get anything close to a majority of the popular vote in the primaries, which was less problematic back when Democrats didn’t have the kind of strict proportionality in delegate awards that they do now.”

The title of Zack Beauchamp’s article, “Howard Schultz’s CNN town hall revealed the emptiness of elite centrism: Schultz’s vacuous politics are a reflection of his class” at vox.com captures the feeling Schultz seems to leave with many Democrats. Beauchamp elaborates: “The CNN town hall from former Starbucks CEO and potential 2020 candidate Howard Schultz on Tuesday was revelatory: It showed he has no agenda beyond blaming the “extreme left” and “extreme right.” Asked repeatedly to explain his policies for fixing America’s biggest problems, Schultz proved himself entirely incapable of proposing new ideas or specific solutions…One audience member asked Schultz what he would do to fix the health care system. His response: “This gives me another opportunity to talk about the extreme left and the extreme right.” CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked him for specifics two more times, to explain what exactly he would do to overhaul American health care. Schultz had no plan…A Houston resident, citing his city’s damage from Hurricane Harvey, asked Schultz what his plans would be to address climate change. Schultz responded by bashing the Green New Deal and complaining about the federal debt.” Sort of centrism for its own sake. I’ll be surprised if Schultz is still in the mix in six months.

Writing at The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky sees the ‘Green New Deal’ as “a home-run – for Mitch McConnell.” As Tomasky explains, “It’s overly broad and grandiose. Getting to zero carbon emissions by 2030 is basically impossible. Serious environmentalists are shooting for 2050. Sweden hopes to be carbon neutral by 2045. That’s Sweden. The United States has 32 times Sweden’s population and 39 times its gross national product…Ernest Moniz, Barack Obama’s energy secretary, is a brilliant person. No one knows more about energy than he does. He told NPR: “I’m afraid I just cannot see how we could possibly go to zero carbon in the 10-year time frame. It’s just impractical. And if we start putting out impractical targets, we may lose a lot of key constituencies who we need to bring along to have a real low-carbon solution on the most rapid time frame that we can achieve.” Tomasky believes that a the Senate vote ont he Green new Deal resolution McConnell plans to scedule is designed to “reveal a big split in the Democratic caucus” and divide Democxrats…Credit AOC for getting the Green New Deal in the camera frame. Climate change is an issue that needs serious attention. But it doesn’t need this sort of attention. Let’s hope this lesson about throwing a hanging curveball over Mitch McConnell’s plate has been learned.”

Many Democrats, who saw Virginia as the emblematic red-to-blue transition state, are shell-shocked by the sudden credibility meltdown among its top Democratic leaders. Looking toward Virginia’s future, Kyle Kondik argues that “Democrats hope for a nationalized Virginia election this fall: Richmond chaos could threaten state legislative takeover but big-picture trends still favor team blue” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. As Kondik sees it, “So here we are, with the top three officials in the state all damaged to at least some degree, but without any real indication as of this writing (Wednesday evening) that any will leave office voluntarily...What is at stake in the state is more than the future of the three state-level, statewide elected Democrats. Before this cascade of revelations and party chaos, Virginia Democrats were looking at the very real possibility of total state government control and — given that many Southern states were ruled by conservative Democrats before Republican dominance in the region — perhaps the most liberal (or progressive, if you prefer) state government in the post-Reconstruction history of not just Virginia, but the South in general…No doubt, the Richmond scandal is an immense headache for Democrats, and a black eye for the commonwealth. If Democrats fail in the fall, the scandal probably will be part of the reason why. But it may be that Democrats suffer through agony all year and then win the state legislature in the fall anyway. If that happened, it would be another triumph for the long-term, nationalized trends that have more often animated politics across the country in recent years than the local ones that seem so politically important in the moment they are happening.”

Top experts on Virginia politics Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik also provide a more in-depth look at the stakes in the battle for control of the Virginia state legislature in light of the current scandals: “Looming over all of this is the upcoming state legislative elections in Virginia this NovemberRepublicans are hanging on to very slim majorities in the state House of Delegates (51-49) and state Senate (21-19). Democrats made a net 15-seat gain in the House of Delegates in November 2017 as Northam, Fairfax, and Herring won statewide. Democrats seemed like favorites to win both chambers — we’ll analyze these races later in the year — particularly because a new state House of Delegates mapimposed by judicial order will improve Democratic odds in that chamber. Some Virginia Democratic operatives, even before the current mess, were concerned that the white hot intensity that fueled Democrats in 2017 and 2018 might cool in 2019, particularly without any statewide elections on the ballot. Lower turnout might help Republicans, whose voter base in Virginia (and elsewhere) can be more reliable in off-year elections. Still, the growing nationalization of American politics could help the Democrats by pushing them to maximize turnout in Virginia by focusing again on the unpopular President Trump. But one could imagine the opposite happening, particularly if Northam hangs around and depresses Democrats, or the Fairfax allegations continue to churn. Perhaps a statewide election for lieutenant governor, if it happens, will increase turnout in Democrats’ favor. Or if Northam stays, could we see Democratic state legislative candidates running on impeaching their own party’s governor? It’s not impossible, and it would be just the latest crazy development in a state rocked by them over the last week.”

There may not be much hope for atonement and rehabilitation for Virginia’s Democratic  Governor Ralph Northam, since most of the state’s African American leaders have reacted to revelations of his black-face mockery in the 1980s by calling for his resignation. Complicating factors include Northam’s positive track record as a progressive Governor, the fact that overt Republican racists always get a free ride with their party and the reality that the next two Democrats in the VA succession order are also in very hot water, while the fourth in line is a Republican. At cnn.com, John Blake makes a case that “Some of the biggest champions for black people in America’s past have been white politicians who were racists.” Blake cites  Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, LBJ and Abraham Lincoln as primary examples, along with racially-insensitive remarks by former Vice President Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Blake concludes that “there is not much room for a politician to evolve in today’s environment. There is a “rage industrial complex” that fixates on the latest racial flashpoint: an outrageous video, remark or image that’s passed around social media like a viral grenade.” But, what if Virginia’s African American leaders embraced a different strategy of insisting Northam hire African Americans for his top staff and workshopping him through a process of rehabilitation? Might that be a more instructive and healing way to address racist behavior?

And at The Nation, Joan Walsh writes, “So where a week ago it seemed unlikely that Northam could survive this crisis, as of Monday it looked possible. While Carroll Foy said she backed the black caucus call for Northam’s resignation, “now that he’s said he’s not going anywhere, and it’s not an impeachable offense, I can use it as a teachable moment.” Keeping Northam in office, as opposed to turning the state over to Republicans, is “better, given that the Republicans say no to unions, no to women’s equality. Even though [Northam and Herring] made this mistake, they are better than the other party” on racial-justice issues…In an interview with The Nation, the Rev. Jesse Jackson acknowledged that he called for Northam’s resignation last week, because “he is less able to govern because of the blackface situation.” But while he denounced blackface as “part of the old scheme of humiliation,” he accused the media of caring more about Northam’s old photo than Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde Smith’s saying she’d be happy to sit in the front row of a lynching, or Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp taking “thousands of black voters off the books” to defeat Stacey Abrams and become governor…“I have to think that when Northam supports Medicaid for all, voting[-rights] enforcement and took the higher side on the Charlottesville march, that should matter more,” Jackson said. He pointed to President Lyndon Johnson as someone who had supported Southern segregation in his youth, but became a champion of civil rights and poverty reduction as president. “We’ve seen what people who are fighting for redemption can do.”..The question in the days to come is whether Northam can convince black voters that he’s serious about redemption.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    “Everyone’s Running — And That Could Be Dangerous For The Democrats: When the field gets big, the primaries get weird.”

    I’ll add its all pretty weird when you consider the kinds of problems we’re facing, the problems the current administration is creating and then the majority of what we hear about these candidates for pres is the wonders of their skin color, gender (or a percentage of them) Buzz words describing their views, ideas or reasons for differences of opinion in the Democratic party are nearly nothing to go by. People often don’t have the same opinion on what those words mean anyway.

    I think the list of candidates would shrink if experience was allowed to be important and if media stopped focusing on all of this shallow, obvious, over simplified and gossipy sounding information about them, as well as stop being so easily distracted and obsessing over the latest outrage. You know leave the social media bits on the social media sites, for godsakes. We need to know stuff about these people

    So I visited the ontheissues website, which while limited it had some stuff I was looking for 🙂
    I looked at all of the candidates I could think of and I know he hasn’t announced a decision yet but Sherrod Brown stands out on just about everything. I wasn’t originally that interested in him largely because of how media talks about him but I’m glad I checked.

  2. Victor on

    The presidential primaries could be nationalized. The last stage of the process could be a ranked choice vote nationwide.

    It is sad, and disgusting, to see Democratic websites parrot attack lines against the Green New Deal that serve to misrepresent its role in political discussion and legislating. This is why younger voters are so mad at establishment Democratic institutions.

    Democrats lose because they quickly cave at the slightest Republican criticism, no matter how unprincipled or absurd.


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