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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some wise words from Amelia Thomson-Deveaux’s post, “Democrats Have No Safe Options On Health Care” at FiveThirtyEight: “It was a top issue among Democratic voters in the 2018 midterms, and the Trump administration recently renewed its efforts to strike down the Affordable Care Act in the courts, which means the law could be hanging in the balance throughout the primaries and into the general election. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll also found that Americans, by a 17-point margin, say that President Trump’s handling of health care makes them more likely to oppose him than to support him in 2020. By a similar margin, an Associated Press/NORC poll found that Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans on health care…All of this means that Democrats are heading into the 2020 election cycle with a serious edge on an issue that has the potential to mobilize their base. But if the candidates pitch big, sweeping changes to the health care system without addressing voters’ concerns about cost and access, that advantage won’t necessarily hold up. And trying to sell Americans on a completely new system carries risks, even in the primaries.”

Thomson-Deveaux adds, “And when asked what health care policies they want Congress to prioritize, Americans don’t list Medicare for All first. Instead, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, they want Congress to pass targeted measures that would lower prescription drug costs, continue the ACA’s protections for preexisting conditions and protect people from surprise medical bills. Only 31 percent of Americans say that implementing Medicare for All should be a top priority for Congress, compared to 68 percent who want lowering drug prices to be a top priority. Moreover, prioritizing Medicare for All is politically polarizing: Only 14 percent of Republicans support putting that kind of plan at the top of the to-do list, compared to 47 percent of Democrats.”

“You also have to tell voters, very specifically, what you are going to do to lower their costs and improve their coverage next year — not in 10 years,” Thomson-Deveaux concludes. “Even though Americans mostly prefer Democrats’ health care positions to the GOP’s, Democrats still risk alienating voters if they emphasize bumper-sticker slogans over concrete strategies for reducing the financial burden of health care. This is particularly important because their base of support for a single-payer system may be shallower than it appears, even within the party — especially when it comes to getting rid of private insurance. Big changes to the status quo are always politically challenging, but they may be especially risky when many Americans are concerned about losing the protections they already have.”

In his “Notes on the State of the House: The Democrats’ generic ballot edge endures, at least for now, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up on redistricting,” Kyle Kondik observes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “Despite the 2018 House blue wave that flipped the lower chamber, Democrats came up empty in two big states: Ohio and North Carolina. Republicans maintained a 12-4 edge in the Buckeye State’s House delegation, and in the Tar Heel State, Republicans seemed to hold their 10-3 advantage until credible accusations of fraud prompted a do-over election in NC-9. The GOP primary for that race is next week (veteran Dan McCready, the 2018 nominee, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination)…A big part of the reason why Democrats failed to win any new seats in Ohio, and may not in North Carolina, is because both states have House maps gerrymandered by Republicans. The GOP actually gerrymandered North Carolina twice in the 2010s, both in an initial map for the 2012 election and then a re-do in response to a court order in advance of 2016. Still, the North Carolina maps have held for the Republicans throughout the decade, with the possible exception of the unusual NC-9 situation.”

However, Kondik continues, “it’s possible that all four of these states will have new House maps in 2020. That combination of outcomes would almost certainly benefit Democrats on balance. While Republicans would almost assuredly pick up a seat in Maryland — MD-6, held by Rep. David Trone (D), would become significantly more Republican in a fair remap — Democrats likely would pick up multiple seats from North Carolina and Ohio. Michigan is harder to figure because the delegation is currently 7-7 and a remap would not necessarily be guaranteed to help Democrats…But it’s also possible, perhaps even likely, that none of the maps in these states actually will change at all this cycle. Republicans in Michigan and Ohio are hoping that the Supreme Court decides not to intervene in the Maryland and North Carolina cases, which might effectively overrule the lower courts’ decisions in Michigan and Ohio, too…the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to intervene in partisan redistricting cases, and the current John Roberts court is very much unlike the Warren Court in terms of ideology. The Supreme Court punted on a gerrymandering decision last year; since then, Brett Kavanaugh has replaced Anthony Kennedy on the court, arguably positioning the court further to the right…In other words, and without knowing what the Supreme Court ultimately will say, we’d be surprised if this ends up being the court that intervenes against partisan redistricting.”

In his article, “Democrats Need an Anti-Austerity Message” at The New Republic, Alex Shephard writes, “It’s a simple truth: Republicans explode the deficit when they’re in power. But, as soon as they’re out of power, they demand austerity—while painting Democrats as wasteful socialists who trade handouts for votes…That’s been pretty much a given for a generation now, but have Democrats come up with an answer?…Today, despite the fact that President Trump’s legislative legacy consists of one deficit-compounding tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans are planning a 2020 campaign aimed at convincing voters that their opponents are socialists who can’t be trusted to hold the keys to the economy—a smear they will no doubt continue if a Democrat prevails…It’s a bait-and-switch they’ve been pulling since the Reagan years. The “party of fiscal responsibility” has reliably driven up the deficit whenever they’ve held power over the past four decades.” Shephard continues, “The political strategy to fight back against the austerity narrative could involve attacking Republican deficit hypocrisy, but that risks further legitimizing the idea that all deficit spending is bad. At a time when Democrats should be proposing large-scale social programs, they could instead go on the offensive, lambasting Republican spending priorities, which, in the case of the ridiculously named Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, consists of giving free cash to rich people…Going on the offensive about what austerity means for people would not only make for smart economics, it makes for smart politics.”

Billy Corriher’s “Southern legislatures take aim at direct democracy” at Facing South shares details about Republican measures to weaken initiative, referenda and recall laws in southern states. Corriher  notes, “Florida is not the only state where elected politicians are targeting direct democracy. This year alone, state lawmakers nationwide have introduced more than 200 bills changing the rules for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments or other ballot referendums, according to Ballotpedia. Legislators in Florida and several other states are also dragging their feet on implementing constitutional changes already approved by the voters.”

“It seems a crazy idea that any president would actually want to be impeached,” Stephen Collinson writes at CNN Politics. “But Donald Trump has so subverted Washington logic with his wild, norm-crushing presidency that there is now a serious conversation — at least among Democrats — about whether he views the ultimate constitutional crisis as a weapon in his re-election campaign…The possibility is shaping the strategies of Democratic leaders as they weigh the political risks of impeachment and their duty to defend principles of American governance…Many Democrats fear that Trump may be laying an impeachment trap that could consume the House majority, distract them from key issues like health care and alienate persuadable voters.”

Do read Ella Nilsen’s “How DNC Chair Tom Perez plans to avoid the chaos of the GOP’s 2016 debates” at Vox. As Nilsen writes, “Thinking back to the chaos of the Republican debates in 2016, Perez already has a few ground rules: there will be no varsity and junior varsity stages — candidates will be chosen at random. If there are 20 qualifiers, 10 will go on one night, and another 10 the next…We wanted to make sure that we returned power to the grassroots. When we undertook reform of our rules last year, we limited the role of superdelegates on the first ballot. And that superdelegate reform was designed to return power to the grassroots. We engaged in other reforms of our primary and caucus processes, so now there are going to be six states that had a caucus before that will have a primary this time. Why is that desirable? Because more people participate.”

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