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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The heart of the message is in the title of Kelly Candaele’s “Sherrod Brown Is Out for 2020, But the Fight for Workers’ Rights Is Not” at In These Times. Candaele writes, “This week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced he would not run for president in 2020. He had just recently wrapped up his “dignity of work” tour across the country, telling audiences “hard work should pay off.” He decided not to run for a number of reasons, but seemed pleased that other Democratic candidates for the White House were borrowing his worker-centric themes and approach. Brown had tailored his message to “regular” folks—fry cooks, nurses, construction workers, people who were once the political base of the Democratic Party.” American workers of all races spend more than half of their weekday waking hours on the job and preparing for work. Brown is surely right that focusing on the injustices of worklife in America and the reforms that can improve it for working people has to be a winning theme. It may not be the only theme, but any Democrat who overlooks it will be giving an adversary who doesn’t a significant messaging edge.

Michael Tomasky explains why “Elizabeth Warren Is Running for President. The Other 2020 Democrats Are Just Jockeying for Position” at The Daily Beast. Noting that “Yes, I’m bummed out Sherrod Brown decided not to run. I thought he had, potentially, the most persuasive argument by far,” Tomasky adds, that “all the others are running for wokest progressive. Warren’s running for president…She’s put out a bunch of tough, meaty proposals. They mean something. They communicate: “This is what I will do, and it will constitute serious change.” Last week’s proposal to break up the tech companies was ambitious and brave. Most Democrats are afraid of tech money… Warren went right at it. Monopoly power. It’s (yet another) huge and under-discussed crisis in this country, a grotesque distortion of the market that hurts consumers in a hundred ways every day…She’s putting the meat on the bones of new Democratic economic message, and no one else is even a close second so far.”

“There’s one other thing she’s been doing well. She knows how to handle the socialist question,” Tomasky continues. “This is important, because “socialism/Venezuela” is going to be a good chunk of the Trump-Fox campaign. She knows what to say. I’m a capitalist “to my bones,” as she once put it. What I’m doing is fixing capitalism. Boom. Easy answer. That John Hickenlooper disaster on Morning Joe last week was jaw-dropping. Dude! It’s not hard. Here’s what you say: “I’m not a socialist. I’m a capitalist. What Democrats want to do is fix capitalism, just like Franklin Roosevelt did. Because what we’re living under now isn’t real capitalism. Real capitalism provides opportunity for working- and middle-class people, not just the ones at the top. We’re in the business of saving capitalism. It’s the Republicans who’ve been distorting and destroying it…Some people on the left won’t like it, but they’re a small group, comparatively speaking. And while they might not like the word “capitalism,” they’ll be perfectly fine with Warren’s specific ideas.”

Tomasky makes it clear he is endorsing a message strategy, not a candidate, and underscores that “Warren has her downsides…She’s also uniquely hated by corporate America and Wall Street. Lots of those people don’t like Donald Trump and would back a Democrat, even a fairly leftish one, I think. But if Warren’s the nominee, they’ll be all-in for Trump. This is not a moral judgment. If anything, it speaks well of her. I’m just saying it would make winning harder. And finally, well, the Democratic Party is one-for-three on Massachusetts liberals, and the one who won the presidency wasn’t really all that liberal, and he won 60 years ago…I’m not at all sure she could beat Trump and Fox (since Fox News will be an arm of his campaign, I’ll try to remember to always say “Trump and Fox,” and everyone else should, too). And the latent sexism in the vote that helped sink Hillary Clinton hasn’t gone anywhere. In the Trump era, it’s probably gotten worse, if anything…Who knows about all that? Not me, not you, not nobody. But this I do know: Elizabeth Warren is defining what the Democratic Party ought to stand for and do so far. Her proposals are strong and smart. They’re not “radical” or “anti-business.” They are anti-multi-millionaire. To that, I say it’s high time.”

If you want to ridicule a good idea, trot out an absurdly-high cost estimate. That’s standard practice for the Republicans, so no one should be surprised that they have slapped a $93 trillion cost estimate on the Green New Deal. As Zack Colman writes at Politico: “the number originated with a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum, that made huge assumptions about how exactly Democrats would go about implementing their plan. But the $93 trillion figure does not appear anywhere in the think tank’s report — and AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin confessed he has no idea how much exactly the Green New Deal would cost.” Colman details how they came up with the ridiculous estimate. But Democrats would be wise not to fool with cost estimates for a broad vision statement. Yes, the GND proponents went too wide, and threw in everything but a pony for everyone. But the heart of the proposal is a much-needed infrastructure plan, with a strong emphasis on environmental modernization — and that’s a good overall vision for the progressive party. Smart Dems need not get down in the weeds with the naysayers.

Stef W. Knight cites the findings of a new Harris poll for Axios, which indicates that “Generation Z has a more positive view of the word “socialism” than previous generations, andalong with millennials — are more likely to embrace socialistic policies and principles than past generations, according to a new Harris Poll given exclusively to Axios.” Amond the data points: 73.2 percent of millenials and generation Z believe that “Govt. should provide universal health care. 67.1 percent of them agree that ” Govt. should provide tuition-free college.” 49.6 percent of them would “prefer living in a socialist country.” Also, “The top three voting issues for Gen Z, according to the Harris poll, are mass shootings, racial equality, and immigration policy and treatment of immigrants.” In addition, “Millennialstop issues are access to health care, global warming/climate change and mass shootings” and “Gen X’s top issues are: access to health care, terrorism/national security and the national debt — the same top issues for boomers and older.”

A revealing exchange from Zach Beauchamp’s interview of Brad DeLong in “A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it’s time to give democratic socialists a chance” at vox.com: “Zack Beauchamp: But despite that substantive view, you think that instead of freaking out about the leftists at the gates, it’s smarter to side with them — to treat them as political coalition partners”…Brad DeLong: “Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people, as far as leftists in the past are concerned. They’re social democrats, they’re very strong believers in democracy. They’re very strong believers in fair distribution of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to work and what is not. But they’re people who we’re very, very lucky to have on our side…That’s especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very, very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives] like Tom Nichols or Bruce Bartlett or Bill Kristol or David Frum talk about all the people they had been with in meetings, biting their tongues over the past 25 years, and your reaction can only be, “Why didn’t you run away screaming into the night long ago?”

“When asked whether they would prefer a presidential candidate who “comes closest to [their] views on issues” or one “with the best chance to defeat Donald Trump,” a full 40 percent of Democratic primary voters said it was most important to them to beat President Trump, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Feb. 24-27,” note Nathaniel Rakich and Dhrumil Mehta in “Democrats Care More About Winning Than Usual” at FiveThirtyEight. “A larger 56 percent said it was most important to agree with their candidate on the issues, but still — two-fifths of the party’s core voters prized electability over ideological purity…True, this is far fewer than the share of Democrats who said this in a Monmouth University poll from late January. In that survey, 56 percent chose the more electable candidate, while 33 percent chose the candidate who agreed with them on the issues. However, the difference might be due to how the question was worded. Monmouth gave respondents a choice between “a Democrat you agree with on most issues but would have a hard time beating Donald Trump or a Democrat you do NOT agree with on most issues but would be a stronger candidate against Donald Trump.” Given that stark choice, it’s not all that surprising voters didn’t choose the candidate who they were explicitly told would have a difficult time defeating Trump.”

However, Mehta and Rackich also note in “Other Polling Nuggets” that “56 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the economy according to a Gallup poll. That’s the highest number the pollster has recorded on this issue since Trump took office.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Tomasky is right. Senator Warren is the only candidate so far who has an actual political program. Her main competitors are offering vague prescriptions for the things she makes concrete and explicit. What she needs to do is win over the Sanders voters by supporting the causes which made Senator Sanders attractive to them.


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