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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

‘In the key Rust Belt states that Trump captured in 2016, his job-approval rating during 2018 was consistently worse than his national average among whites with and without a college degree, according to detailed figures provided to me by Gallup. This suggests that the most straightforward path for Democrats to recapture these states—particularly Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—may be to find a nominee who can reassure white voters who are cooling on Trump,” Ronald Brownstein writes in “Democrats’ Two Roads to Beating Trump” at The Atlantic. “In almost all the Sun Belt states that Democrats are hoping to contest, by contrast, Trump’s approval rating among both college- and non-college-educated white voters exceeds his national average, according to the same previously unpublished results. This suggests that to flip targets such as Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, Democrats must find a nominee who can mobilize much greater turnout among those states’ large and growing populations of nonwhite voters.”…Democratic strategists and liberal media commentators are already debatingwhether a focus on swing states in the Rust Belt or the Sun Belt offers the most promising road to ousting Trump in 2020. Some have argued that it’s a false choice for Democrats to prioritize one over the other. They say a strong economic message could allow them to simultaneously appeal to disaffected white voters in the Midwest—especially from working-class families with slow-growing incomes—and excite greater turnout among nonwhite voters in the Sun Belt, particularly young people.”

David Atkins writes at The American Prospect that “The center-left, which has dominated the Democratic Party since at least the late 1970s, has long depended on being the “responsible” party: the cogent, the level-headed, the ones who, as Michelle Obama famously said, “go high” when they go low. Like the real mother in the biblical Judgment of Solomon, they are willing to sacrifice almost any legislative priority in order to maintain the norms of late-20th-century governance, especially so long as no one’s stock market portfolio takes a hit…The problem is that this dynamic between right and center-left is codependent and convenient to the status quo. The far right gets to keep the angry old racists happy; the center-left keeps the concerned vaguely cosmopolitan educated crowd happy. Notably, the donor class and those with an interest in maintaining the current order always seem to come out ahead…The progressive left is simply refusing to play the game. This is partly a matter of fundamental fairness, partly a recognition that this unhealthy political codependency causes a continual rightward drift in most policy areas. But most importantly, it’s a recognition that resolving the environmental and economic crises facing the country is more important than protecting rhetorical niceties and parliamentary traditions.”

At Daily Kos, Egberto Willies explains why “A move to the center is a continued fraud on Americans,” and observes that “Progressives must disregard all calls to move to the center. The status quo is not sustainable, and will continue to screw the poor and the middle class…Too often Democrats panic and instead of expending the effort to defend the practical and mathematical superiority of their ideas, they acquiesce to timidity. For that reason, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other newly elected, unabashedly progressive stalwarts should give hope to many. Republicans are expending a lot of energy to manipulate Democrats into giving up on moving left. Moving to the center would be fatal, and the GOP knows it…It is imperative that we continue to tell Americans, issue-by-issue, how we intend to make life better for them. But most importantly, we need to make the truthful case that our current economic model is a clear and present danger to the personal economy and well-being of most. A move to the center is a continued fraud on Americans.”

In “‘Dems in Disarray’ Is an Exhausting and Flawed Beltway Meme” at Esquire, Charles Pierce writes about the media’s hyping up divisions between Democrats. “The Washington Post would like you to know that the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has degenerated into open gang warfare, and that they’ll be very lucky if they all come out of all this success alive…We all should be accustomed by now to the Dems In Disarray template. (Note the perpetual binary by which the caucus is divided into “liberals” and “moderates.” Conservative Democrats apparently do not exist.) But the apocalyptic prose here has been dialed up to 11.” Pierce also asks, “is it time yet to wonder whether “districts Trump won” is an accurate metric by which to judge the ideological makeup of a congressional district, let alone a proper basis on which a congress critter should vote? What if, in many of these places, the Trump election was a fluke? What if the Trump vote was not ideological in the least but, rather, a desire to hock a loogie at the current political situation, the personal economic circumstances of millions of voters, the dreaded libtard hordes, and everything that’s gone wrong from the mill leaving town to your mother-in-law’s pot roast? What if the unprecedented confluence of events and circumstances that produced this administration* can’t be duplicated, even by the president* whom it installed in the White House?”

Ed Kilgore warns at New York Magazine that as the 2020 race narrows, “if it looks like Trump is in a relatively good position, it may be difficult for Democrats to think about anything other than electability…Will they calmly resolve to unite behind whoever emerges from the abattoir of the nominating process, based on their popularity among Democratic primary voters? Or will they panic and become obsessed about “electability” as opposed to any other candidate quality?..will progressive journalists and Democratic activists neurotically look at horse-race polls every other hour and adjust their views of presidential aspirants accordingly? It’s entirely possible. So in addition to developing an exciting agenda and raising money and figuring out where on a complex primary and caucus map to deploy candidate time and other resources, 2020 Democrats need to develop, update, and document a strong case that they are a good bet to beat Trump. This could soon dwarf arguments over Medicare for All and college affordability and income inequality and other substantive issues even among — perhaps especially among — the most serious progressive Democrats.”

Robert Griffin and Joe Goldman of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group share data from an updated survey which “shows how the public currently perceives the Mueller investigation, including its fairness and integrity, the seriousness of the allegations, and the appropriateness of certain actions that the president might take. It is based on the January 2019 VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) of 6,779 Americans, most of whom had been surveyed previously as part of a longitudinal panel.” Among their “key findings”: “A consistent plurality of Americans remains confident that the investigation is being conducted fairly (49 percent) and have a favorable opinion of Robert Mueller (41 percent). Interestingly, in the face of intense media coverage and efforts to undermine the investigation, almost a quarter (23 percent) of Americans still don’t have an opinion of Mueller. However, a clear majority (61 percent) still believe it would be inappropriate for Trump to remove him from the investigation…About half (52 percent) of Americans think that members of the Trump campaign had improper contact with Russia during the 2016 election. Almost seven in ten Americans (69 percent) think that it would be serious if the Mueller investigation concluded that Trump or his campaign accepted or sought assistance from the Russian government. An identical number (69 percent) of Americans say it would be serious if Mueller found that Trump or his staff obstructed the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. About six in ten (60 percent) say it would be inappropriate for the president to issues pardons to senior members of his administration…A consistent 44 percent of Americans believe the president should “definitely” or “probably be impeached” — including more than three-quarters of Democrats (78 percent), about three in ten independents (31 percent), and just 7 percent of Republicans.”

If you were wondering how often “every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president,” check out this updated chart, “Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump” at FiveThirtyEight. Among U.S. Senators, for example, Joe Mancin was the Democrat who supported Trump’s position most frequently during his administration (59.8 percent of the time). followed by the recently-elected Kyrsten Sinema (59.2) and the 2018-defeated Heidi Heidkamp (54.8). The Democratic Senators who supported Trump’s position the least were Kristen Gillibrand (12.0), Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley (both 13.0). “Independent” Bernie Sanders supported Trump 14.3 percent of the time, while Independent Angus King supported Trump in 42.4 percent of votes. In terms of votes supporting or opposing Trump, the Democratic Senator with the closest to the median score between Gillibrand and Mancin is Jon Tester, who voted for Trump’s positions 35.8 percent of the time.

From “Time for a change: Can 2020 Democrats break free from the failures of neoliberalism?” by Paul Rosenberg at salon.com: “One of the most striking things about the blossoming 2020 Democratic primary campaign is how much the candidates have broken with the party’s defensive, neoliberal posture of the past quarter-century — a period of time in which Republicans have only won the popular vote for president once, but have nonetheless dominated the parameters of debate. Now, all that has changed. In 2016, Bernie Sanders’ advocacy of Medicare for All was read as a fringe position by a fringe candidate. Heading into 2020, it has polled as high as 70 percent support, and is now a mainstream candidate position, ..Ideally, the Democrats’ 2020 primary campaign could and should involve a full-throated debate about the best ways to realize the full meaning of inclusive growth, including all the non-economic dimensions of recognition as well. It should flesh out specific aspects of what progressive populism means, and how to achieve its goals. It should promote sound policies to advance inclusive growth. And it should reclaim the once commonsense idea that while the market can be a good servant, it makes a terrible, tyrannical master…What voters care most about is the future — what candidates promise to do, and why — and the past matters most for making sense of what they say, for showing they saw things in the past, how they came to change, and how they see us all moving forward in the future.”

“Given the damage the Republican Party has caused with pass two deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy over the past two decades, Democrats can argue that they’re the party of fiscal seriousness not in spite of any plan to soak the rich, but because of it,” Alex Shephard observes at The New Republic “Democrats are largely talking about their bold programs in a fiscal vacuum. That should change. Raising taxes to fund Medicare for All and the Green New Deal isn’t just a moral argument, but an economic one. These proposals are necessary to fix a broken health care system that bankrupts hundreds of thousands every year and an broken capitalist system in which a wealthy minority reaps nearly all the benefits of continued growth. While continued discussion of potential drawbacks will undoubtedly make these programs less popular, Democrats need to unite around a message to counter bad-faith attacks from the GOP…The answer is to merge a number of the Democratic plans floated by presidential candidates and politicians like Ocasio-Cortez into a larger program aimed at creating a fairer economy, providing universal health care, and decarbonizing the economy—and to be clear about exactly how they plan to pay for it. The politics of taxes are changing. Now the Democrats need to change their message accordingly.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Paul Rosenberg wrote, “This style of top-down education reform — supported by elites in both parties — has angered parents, students, teachers and whole communities across the political spectrum, not least because it’s served to both help fuel and distract from massive disinvestments in public education.”

    What “massive disinvestments in public education”? In 2007, the USA spent $11,189 per student and in 2016, $11,762 per annum. At no time between those two years did we spend less than $11,048. Source: US Census Bureau Annual Survey of School Systems Finance, figures in constant 2016 dollars. http://www.governing.com/gov-data/education-data/state-education-spending-per-pupil-data.html


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