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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

As Trump and Republicans campaign on the relatively low official unemployment rate, Democrats would do well to master rebuttal soundbites. Toward that end, read “When adjusted for inflation, wages and weekly earnings for most workers are lower than 50 years ago” by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, which notes, “Every month, Advisor Perspectives takes a look at what non-farm, non-supervisory, and production employees are being paid. They make up about 80% of all U.S. workers…Using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers to adjust wages for inflation and adding that to the average number of hours employees work, AP’s Jill Mislinski comes up with hypothetical real annual earnings. In 1964, the average work week was 38.8 hours. Now it’s 33.7. If pay had risen commensurately, that would be a good thing. A four-day work week would be a boon for all but the most committed workaholics. But that’s not what happened. Thus, today, taking the average work week and multiplying it by the average hourly wage, he comes up with average inflation-adjusted annual earnings of $39,277. That’s down 11.5% since the peak in weekly hours in October 1972. And that gross figure doesn’t take into account reductions for taxes or other deductions…Hourly inflation-adjusted wages for four-fifths of the workforce—what economists label “real wages”—are now way above what they were in the depths of the Great Recession, but slightly less than they were at their peak 47 years ago. This is after a decade of economic growth since that recession officially ended in June 2009.”

In his Daily Beast article, “How Democrats Can Stop Playing Defense on Abortion,” Dean Obeidallah writes that “enacting a constitutional amendment on any issue, let alone a divisive one like abortion, is currently impossible. We simply can’t get the necessary two-thirds of Congress to first approve such an amendment, and then three-quarters of the state legislatures to sign on. Nor are the prospects of a constitutional convention better.  But if the leading 2020 Democrats make this a key issue, it could begin to lay the groundwork to build public support for such an amendment in years to come–the same way the GOP has built support over decades to ban abortion in its own ranks that is now manifesting as laws…But in the meantime, what can be done—and possibly in time for the 2020 election–is putting into action the process to amend state constitutions to recognize a constitutional right to reproductive freedom. In fact, Vermont is currently considering just such an amendment, which would make the Green Mountain state the first to enshrine abortion access in its constitution by ensuring that “every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty…Other states should follow Vermont’s lead. This can be accomplished by a ballot initiative in key swing states that provide for such measures including Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin.  With recent polls showing that a solid majority of Americans oppose the GOP’s extreme laws to control women’s bodies, this could boost turnout for the Democratic candidates in those states.”

Josephine Huetlin explains why “Young Voters Might Just Save Europe From Right-Wing Madness” at the Daily Beast: “The message: “Everyone has a choice but not everyone has a vote: Make the European election about climate.”…Across Europe, inspired by such messages—and fearful about the world they are inheriting from profligate politicians—that is precisely what young people set out to do. And if there are real lessons to be learned here (ones that may well be relevant in the United States), it is that politicians ignore young voters at their peril, and climate change is the issue that mobilizes a great many of them…it was the Liberals and the Greens who stole the moment, and the political momentum, holding the populist tide in check everywhere except in Italy. The right-wing parties gained ground, true, but nothing like as much as had been expected…The Greens, with double-digit scores in most of Europe’s biggest countries, secured 71 seats in the European Parliament, up from 52 seats five years ago. In Germany, Ireland, Finland, and France, Green parties surged. Even in Britain amid Brexit chaos, the Greens scored more than 11 percent of the vote, which put them ahead of the shattered Tory party.”

Perry Bacon, Jr. reports on “What Republicans And Democrats Are Doing In The States Where They Have Total Power” at FiveThirtyEight, and observes “The 14 states — which are home to about 112 million people — that are totally controlled by Democrats are pushing forward an agenda of, among other things, hiking the minimum wage significantly above the federal $7.25 per hour, banning (for minors) therapy that is designed to “convert” gay and lesbian people from homosexuality (this treatment is widely condemned by medical experts) and mandating that the Electoral College votes in states go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. …The issues being pushed in liberal states aren’t too surprising. They reflect a combination of (i) initiatives the Obama administration was pushing in its latter stages but couldn’t get approved nationally because the GOP controlled Congress; (ii) reactions to the Trump era (particularly trying to ensure that another president is not elected without winning the popular vote), and (iii) priorities of the party’s activists.”

As for red states, Bacon notes, “The 22 GOP-totally-controlled states — which are home to about 136 million people — have tried to eliminate restrictions on gun rights, stop cities from becoming “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants and weaken the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement that targets the Israeli government for how it treats Palestinians…Similar to the Democratic list, this legislative agenda represents (i) Trump administration priorities that can’t get approved in Congress; (ii) reactions to the Obama administration (particularly the attempts to limit Medicaid, which was greatly expanded in the Obama years), and (iii) longtime conservative activists’ causes (limiting gun restrictions, for example)…And some of these ideas have crossed the red-blue divide — for example, some GOP-controlled states, like North Dakota, are joining the push to decriminalize marijuana, and many blue states, including California and New York, have enacted anti-BDS provisions.”

However, Bacon notes some that some policies you might expect “are not proliferating at the state level, including Medicare expansion — “only Washington has adopted a so-called public option at the state level. And even as some of the party’s presidential candidates emphasize hiking rates on the wealthiest Americans, totally controlled Democratic states haven’t been as enthusiastic. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s push for a major tax increase on millionaires, for example, is facing strong resistance from his fellow Democrats in the state legislature.” Republican-dominated states have been slow to pass laws enabling charter schools — “of the six states that don’t currently have laws allowing for the creation of charters, four (Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia) are totally controlled by the GOP.”

“It’s common for critics of the new wave of state laws severely limiting access to abortion to say the measures are part of a Republican “war on women,”  writes Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic. “But strong support from most white women, especially those who identify as evangelical Christians, has helped Republicans dominate local government in the states passing the most restrictive measures, from Alabama and Georgia to Kentucky and Missouri. In some of those states, polling shows that opposition to legal abortion is higher among white women than among white men…These attitudes underscore why it’s too simplistic to forecast that the renewed push against abortion will uniformly drive women away from the GOP…The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) examined state-by-state attitudes on abortion in 2014. It found that just over three-fifths of white women in Alabama and Mississippi said that abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances, almost exactly the same percentage as white men in those states. About three-fifths of white women in Kentucky and a narrow majority in Georgia said that abortion should be mostly illegal; in both cases, that was a higher share than among the state’s white men. Only in Missouri did a 51 percent majority of white women say that abortion should mostly remain legal.”

As for how this trend played out in the mideterm election, Brownstein adds that “In 2018, for instance, exit polls conducted by Edison Research found that fully three-fourths of white women supported the Republican Brian Kemp over the Democrat Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor’s race. That same year, just 16 percent of white women picked the Democrat Mike Espy for Mississippi’s Senate seat. In the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama, 63 percent of white women backed the Republican Roy Moore, who faced multiple allegations that he had dated teenage girls as an adult, over the Democrat Doug Jones (who narrowly triumphed anyway)…In all of these races, southern white women’s preferences diverged sharply from those of African American women, who gave 97 percent of their votes to Abrams, 98 percent to Jones, and 93 percent to Espy…Fully 80 percent of southern white evangelical women backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, according to previously unpublished exit-poll results provided to me by Edison. Three-fourths of white evangelical women in Alabama backed Moore over Jones in 2017, and an even more emphatic 88 percent of them in Georgia backed Kemp over Abrams in last year’s governor’s race. Across the South overall, three-fourths of white evangelical women said they approved of Trump’s performance in the 2018 exit poll, according to Edison, and just 20 percent of white evangelical women backed Democratic House candidates that year.”

At The Boston Review, Richard Reeves shares some salient thoughts on class, specifically the social position of the upper-middle class in America: “…The popular obsession with the top 1 percent allows the upper middle class to convince ourselves we are in the same boat as the rest of America; but it is not true.  However messily it is expressed, much of the criticism of our class is true. We proclaim the “net” benefits of free trade, technological advances, and immigration, safe in the knowledge that we will be among the beneficiaries. Equipped with high levels of human capital, we can flourish in a global economy. The cities we live in are zoned to protect our wealth, but deter the unskilled from sharing in it. Professional licensing and an immigration policy tilted toward the low-skilled shield us from the intense market competition faced by those in nonprofessional occupations. We proclaim the benefits of free markets but are largely insulated from the risks they can pose. Small wonder other folks can get angry…The upper middle class has been having it pretty good. It is about time those of us in the favored fifth recognized our privileged position. Some humility and generosity is required. But there is clearly some work to do in terms of raising awareness. Right now, there is something of a culture of entitlement among America’s upper middle class. Partly this is because of a natural tendency to compare ourselves to those even better off than us…the size and strength of the upper middle class means that it can reshape cities, dominate the education system, and transform the labor market. The upper middle class also has a huge influence on public discourse, counting among its members most journalists, think-tank scholars, TV editors, professors, and pundits in the land…It has become a staple of politicians to declare the American dream dying or dead. But it is not dead. It is alive and well; but it is being hoarded by those of us in the upper middle class. The question is: Will we share it?”

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