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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr. addresses the question, “Would Democrats Really Face A Backlash If They Impeached Trump?,” and responds, “In terms of public opinion, probably the best that Democrats can hope for is a 50-50 split on impeachment — basically, Clinton voters in favor and Trump voters opposed. But it’s entirely possible that impeachment remains a net political loser for Democrats…Which leads us to another argument against impeachment, that Democrats should instead focus on issues where a clear majority of the public is on the party’s side. This is Pelosi’s strategy, pushing more popular proposals like defending the Affordable Care Act provision that bars insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher prices for people with preexisting conditions, and making it easier for Americans to register to vote on Election Day…So even if impeachment is basically a 50-50 issue and wouldn’t hurt Democrats’ standing all that much, you could argue that it’s a bad political move because Democrats could be focusing on issues where, say, 70 percent of Americans agree with them.”

Kos reports that “Harris and Warren dis Fox News, because they’re the smart ones” at Daily Kos and argues that “Warren is absolutely correct. Fact is, there isn’t a single primary voter watching Fox News. It’s a waste of time for a Democratic presidential candidate to spend time on that hate network if their goal is to, you know, win a Democratic presidential primary. Meanwhile, they are giving white supremacist Trump State Media undeserved credibility while getting nothing in return…The Sanders appearance has its own internal logic: He likes to thumb his nose at Democrats, including those fighting the war against Fox News. And he delighted his supporters by doing battle with Fox News hosts. It wasn’t helpful to the broader movement, and reinforced the fact that he’ll never be a team player, but it definitely gave him a nice promotional boost at the time. Ratings were legit great. I’ll call it a smart move. An asshole move, for sure! But smart…So congrats to Warren and Harris for doing the only smart thing here: using their time to talk to actual Democrats, while refusing to give any credibility to the right-wing’s most pernicious propaganda outlet.”

It’s a fair question: “What If Electability Is More About Authenticity than Moderation?,” addressed by David Atkins at The Washington Monthly. As Atkins explains, “Conventional wisdom and popular cultural media and entertainment narratives dictate that Americans are looking for moderate politicians who will work across the aisle to “get things done” and make compromises on behalf of the American people. That narrative, however, is belied by just about every single recent trend in American politics, from the 2008 election to the rise of the Tea Party, to the aggressive challenge to the Democratic establishment by a self-described socialist, and, finally, the election of an overtly racist authoritarian who had bragged on camera about sexually assaulting women. Moderation, from either direction, does not seem to be what voters are after…for a certain type of voter, authenticity is more important than any particular policy concern…Rather, they want politicians who they view as authentically placing the interests of real people ahead of corrupt special interests. The policy specifics are secondary to that…It may well be that the same candidates who appeal authentically to progressive emotional sensibilities will also appeal to the voters Democrats most need to persuade in the purple districts and states they need to win. At the same time, they might just be the ones to bring out people who otherwise wouldn’t vote at all.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez resurrects an old messaging tool to good effect in making the case for the affordability of the Green New Deal, reports Frances Langum in “AOC Smacks Down ‘How We Gonna Pay For It’ With Pentagon Receipts at Crooks and Liars. As Langum’s subtitle notes, paraphrasing AOC, “Apparently we “can’t afford” the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, but we can afford to pay $1443.00 for a $32.00 part as long as it’s in the Defense Budget.” Here’s how AOC presented it:

Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine that “U.S. News’ ‘Best States’ Rankings Don’t Smile on Red Ones,” and he observes, “When you look at the states’ political complexions, the patterns are quite clear. The No. 1 state is Washington, and eight of the top ten are states Donald Trump lost (the exceptions being Utah and Nebraska). Twelve of the bottom 13 are states Trump carried (New Mexico is the exception)…It’s an interesting commentary on the ancient reactionary idea that a low-tax, low-regulation, anti-union environment guarantees growth. If that were true, Alabama and Mississippi should be dynamos with high living standards. They really, really aren’t. But the myth endures that the good life is found where government is weak and job creators walk tall, particularly from the safe distance of conservative think tanks far away.”

Margaret Calson argues at the Daily Beast that “The worst thing that could happen to Donald Trump would be for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Public opinion over abortion rests in equipoise with equal percentages for and against, although with those against more energized. But this week’s poll from pro-Trump Fox News  shows that with abortion threatened like never before,  57 percent say of Roe, “let it stand.”…That’s bad news for Trump, although he doesn’t seem to know it yet, the way he doesn’t know Patriot Farms can’t switch on a dime from planting soybeans to corn to mitigate damages from his fruitless trade war.” On the other hand, he (more likely his advisors) may know it and be OK with it losing in the Supreme Court, so they get the benefit of jacking up their base, while not risking energizing the opposition.

It’s not going to pass before Democrats win back the white house and the senate, but “The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), introduced earlier this month by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), would push back on a series of Republican-backed laws that have cropped up in more than two dozen states in the past decade.” Among several important provisions, the “new bill would also allow workers to sue employers who illegally interfere with unionizing efforts, instead of forcing them to take all their complaints to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that enforces collective bargaining laws. The new bill would also let the board hit employers with fines if they break the law. Right now there’s currently no financial penalty for employers who illegally fire workers who are trying to unionize, for example…Despite declining union membership, more and more Americans support the idea of unionizing these days. In fact, there’s been a sharp increase in public support for labor unions in recent years, according to Gallup…Still, it’s highly unlikely that any Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate would ever touch the new labor reform bill. In fact, they’re moving in the other direction, trying to expand a bill in the Senate that implements right-to-work laws in every state…” – from “Democrats have an ambitious plan to save American labor unions” by Alexia Fernandez Campbell at Vox.

Yes, the Alabama abortion law was signed into law by a woman governor. But the title of Danielle Girard’s cbsnews.com post, “Alabama just criminalized abortions – and every single yes vote was cast by a white man” further highlights a good messaging point for Democrats, that the G.O.P. is the party of old white guys at the state level, as well as nationally. Dems should be more dilligent about always putting together a group photo of the Great White Wall that that is so often responsible for the legislative disasters du jour and publicizing it where it can do some good. Just clip the pix from their individual web pages and present them as a whole. It’s not a good look, even in Alabama, which is far more diverse than its state legislature indicates.

There are plenty of articles noting the unwieldy size of the Democratic field of presidential candidates and all of the problems it creates, not the least of which is that many of the candidates can’t get much media coverage. Indeed, Dems do have a bumper crop of very impressive presidential candidates with relatively low name-recognition, at least compared to Biden and Bernie. Only Mayor Pete Buttigieg of the lesser-known candidates is getting substantial coverage. But could the large number of quality candidates, depicted as a whole, also be a good look for the party? Showcasing the Democrats’ array of attractive younger candidates could also help portray an appealing image of the party. Sure, the diversity could be better. But, compared to the Republicans, it’s much more impressive and also helps to make Dems look like the party of the future and the one that looks like America. Not to deny the very real problems Dems face with the huge field of candidates; but Dems would be wise to make the most of their younger, more diverse ‘look.’

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    a bit on what David Atkins wrote at the Washington Monthly

    “Instead, Biden’s support seems predicated on Democrats and anti-Trump independents who believe he’s the most electable candidate. Frustratingly, in the Trump era, “electable” is often code for white and male, ”

    Maybe it neutralizes some of Trump’s for racists only appeal but shouldn’t we avoid trying to invalidate a candidate because of their skin color or sex?

    I think the electable question probably has more to do with voters looking for the opposite of what bothers them the most in the current president. I doubt IRL that includes white old, male and a centrist or moderate.
    It also might have something to do with what kind of election we all want to experience or avoid. So maybe there is something to choosing a white male intentionally or feeling more at ease with one? How Trump treats women and minorities would be included in what bothers people the most about the current pres so they might not want to give him an opportunity to go there and to incite his supporters to do the same.
    If there was a candidate that for some reason people had a reason to believe stopped Trump from tweeting, that person might be doing better than others too.

    “In short, Democrats are by and large making the decision to vote not for who they want, but for whom they are told other people will also vote”

    Did people who support Biden actually say this? This seems like a product of an online disagreement between centrists and progressives about Biden’s support that doesnt involve the opinions of anyone who does support him.
    I feel like maybe I imagined it but it seems like there was a time when there was an effort to ask people why they preferred a candidate. Now we hear about fundraising, twitter, skin color, sex and age as the only existing reasons for choosing or rejecting a candidate. I hope people talking about the election can get beyond thinking about it only as a battle over marketing for the Democratic party. You wonder if they are taking this election seriously.

    “So what do persuadable “swing” voters want, and how should Democratic primary voters factor that into the selection of a nominee?

    One consideration is that for a certain type of voter, authenticity is more important than any particular policy concern.”

    Strange because I thought this was going to continue with why people supported Biden.

    Anyway, I’m on the same page as Chris Atkins about Elizabeth Warren but not for how to understand Biden’s support or how Warren should go after her opponents.

    I’ve really been looking forward to debates between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. I think those might actually be interesting.

  2. Candace on

    Why is the Democratic Party always being advised to bow to polls that amount to keeping the heat off of Trump? Is it that Democrats can’t argue their case for anything or influence opinions?There aren’t any fighters in this party?
    “You have to be more than just anti-Trump” translates as don’t criticize him. Pretend he isn’t there. Impeach? No too risky. Pretend he isn’t there and maybe the Republicans will be nice to us.

    Both parties have made protecting Trump from any consequences a priority for some perception of political gains. And yet we should wonder in awe at how Trump has maintained his popularity through numerous scandals and how certain behaviors and pathological lying have been normalized?
    If there are no real consequences then its a matter of opinion or its really okay and people tune it out and some are inspired.

    I respect Nancy Pelosi and yes, you have to choose your battles carefully but too just because you have an idea on how the Trump/Republicans will respond to something it doesn’t mean you should avoid doing it. Knowing gives you an ability to prepare. Hopefully that’s where this is all going.

    But this is not even just about having the will to impeach. What about that legislation Democrats want to pass? Or investigations they want to hold? Are people hearing more than Democrats try to do stuff, and Republicans stop them, reliving their glory days of shoving kids into lockers and toilets?

    There’s nothing 50/50 about this situation. Trump and the Republicans have been doing everything they can to dismantle and discredit the US government and protect themselves and the Russians from the investigations and stop any attempts to secure our elections, but for some reason Democrats can’t call it for what it is, can’t do anything about it because the polls say so? Oh I mean because they’re cowards? Afraid of the Republicans?
    Who needs laws, secure elections or a Congress anyway

    Democratic party in a fight has a communication problem. If they can’t figure this out then they should hire someone, an organization whatever that doesn’t advise surrender for a change.


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