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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

As the Republicans peddle blaming Democrats for hyping the ‘collusion’ meme about Trump and the Russians, at The Nation, Joshua Holland provides a sobering reminder: “We should also acknowledge that no human being on Earth has done more to keep the Trump-Russia narrative in the news than Donald Trump. Not only does he have a compulsive tendency to randomly blurt out “no collusion, no collusion”–a claim he’s made 231 times since mid-2017, according to The Washington Post—he’s also kept Russia front and center by refusing to implement sanctions that Congress passed against Russian actors, repeatedly meeting with Vladimir Putin with no advisers or note-takers present, and arguing that Russia was within its rights to annex Crimea. When the president of the United States tells reporters that the president of Russia has “probably” ordered assassinations and poisonings, “but I rely on them; it’s not in our country,” that’s objectively newsworthy.”

Sean Illing’s “Does AG Barr’s summary of the Mueller report “exonerate” Trump? I asked 15 legal experts” at vox.com includes this observation from Notrte Dame law proff Jimmy Gurule about whether or not Mueller actually did his job: “The order appointing Mueller to investigate whether Trump or members of his presidential campaign colluded with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election also authorized Mueller to investigate any crimes arising from the Russia investigation, which includes whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice…By failing to reach a conclusion on that matter, Mueller failed to fulfill his mandate. Furthermore, referring the obstruction of justice issue to Barr, who had decided that Trumphad not obstructed justice prior to being appointed to serve as attorney general, was a serious mistake and undermines the public’s confidence in the outcome.”

Also at The Nation, John Nichols shares a couple of the better quotes so far about the Mueller report, which could be useful soundbites for Democrats: “Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by the president and those around him was summed up by House Judiciary Committee member Jamie Raskin. “I don’t want to read the Cliff notes version of Macbeth,” observed Raskin. “I want to read Macbeth itself.”…Barr’s assessment is suspect. Indeed, as former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams observed Monday, relying on Barr’s summary is “like having your brother summarize your report card to your parents.”

As for the significant political fallout of Barr’s letter, Nate Silver opines at FiveThirtyEight that, “where this will help Trump the most is not with traditional swing voters but with Trump-skeptical Republicans. Even Republicans who don’t love Trump tend to be critical of the news media, and they’d already thought that the media was devoting too much attention to Russia-related matters. If the investigation now looks to them like a wild goose chase — or a “WITCH HUNT,” to use Trump’s preferred term — it will create greater solidarity between them and the rest of the Republican Party. While this isn’t a huge group of voters, every little bit helps in an election that could shape up as another 50-50 affair.”

Ed Kilgore adds at New York Magazine that “You could also argue that Democrats will now find it easier to stress policy differences with the president and his party. Even if Trump was (to consider a laughable hypothetical) a model of probity, his own policy agenda, his hostility to deeply held national values, his party’s deeply unpopular long-range goals, and his sheer recklessness would all make him vulnerable to a reelection defeat…It should also not be forgotten that all the exultant raging from Trump and his supporters right now will free Democrats of any illusion that 2020 will be a cakewalk. With a Trump reelection now looking significantly more feasible than it did just last week, Democrats may begin considering in painful detail the catastrophic consequences of a second Trump term, and adjust the tone and conduct of their own nomination contest accordingly. The wolf is now most definitely at the door, howling in anticipation of a rich feast that his intended victims can no longer risk serving up via damaging internecine conflict.”

According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), “A few months ago, Republicans effectively stole the elections for 16 seats in Congress and 7 state legislative chambers….That’s the startling conclusion of a brand new analysis by the Associated Press, which found that Republican gerrymandering allowed Republicans to win 16 more congressional seats and 7 more state legislative majorities than they should have based on their vote share…In state House elections…as many as seven chambers otherwise could have flipped to Democrats.” The DLCC urges contributions to help take back the stolen seats via actblue.com.

From an Abstract of “Laboratories of Democracy Reform: State Constitutions and Partisan Gerrymandering” by Samuel Wang, Richad Ober and Ben Williams at The Social Science Research Networ (SSRN): “Here we argue that the Court has successfully laid out several intellectual paths toward effective regulation – but that the best route for applying such reasoning goes not through federal law, but state constitutions…We argue that such a federalist approach offers the most promising route to remedying partisan gerrymandering in America. All fifty state constitutions contain rights and protections which could be used to bring a partisan gerrymandering claim. These include analogues of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, guarantees of pure, free, and fair elections, and redistricting-specific guarantees such as geographic compactness. Because each of these protections involves either individualized or associational harms, the Roberts and Kagan opinions offer state courts persuasive guidance for how to analyze their own constitutional provisions to a partisan gerrymandering claim. Advancing such claims on a state by state basis allows courts to adapt the reasoning to local circumstances. Taken together, our arguments describe a federalist approach for eliminating partisan gerrymandering, a major bug in American democracy.”

In addition to legal battles against gerrymandering, “Another approach that reformers could take is to turn away from the courts altogether and engage with partisan gerrymandering in the system that made it: electoral politics,” writes Amelia Thomson-Deveaux at FiveThirtuyEight. “In the 2018 midterms, voters in four states approved ballot measures creating independent redistricting commissions, which can make elections more competitive…However, not all states permit voters to put initiatives directly on the ballot. And as Tokaji told me, a well-funded opposition can be deadly to a ballot initiative campaign, which means that bipartisan support is key. “If voters are confused about a ballot initiative, they tend to vote no,” he said. “And it’s not hard to confuse people if you have a lot of money.”

Here’s some interesting insights from “The progressive base is more pragmatic than you might think: Door knockers know that on the issues, Democratic voters are far from uniform. They’re working with that” by Lara Putnam at vox.com: “The actual activist base that made these and hundreds of similar campaigns nationwidehappen has little overlap with the metropolitan millennial socialists getting all the press. The people doing the work on the ground are disproportionately middle-aged or older, female, and unlikely to tweet. What they do use their smartphones for is canvassing: individual users of the miniVAN app, which gives campaign field operations access to the shared Democratic voter database, tripled from 150,000 in 2016 to 460,000 in 2018. Field directors’ estimates of the portion of their canvassers who were women range from 60 to 80 percent. (Several noted a surge of younger and more male volunteers in the final days, joining the older women who had been there from the start.)…That’s quite a different perspective than assuming the nation is full of swing voters just waiting for the low-tax, low-ambition centrist of their dreams. But it’s also far distant from the claim that America is full of passionate Leftist non-voters who have waited years for the revolutionary platform that will pull them to the polls…The actually-door-knocking Democratic base knows better. Unlike the political hobbyists burning up the internet with hot takes, they have a hard-won and deeply pragmatic understanding of the regional electorates around them, in all their messy contradictions.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    ” Democrats may begin considering in painful detail the catastrophic consequences of a second Trump term, and adjust the tone and conduct of their own nomination contest accordingly. ”

    Have you met Bernie?


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