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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Atlantic, Ben LaBolt, a former national press secretary for President Obama’s reelection campaign, warns that “neither the Democratic National Committee nor any of the major Democratic super PACs are live with any notable broadcast or digital-advertising budget in battleground states targeted toward general-election swing voters. The 23 Democratic presidential campaigns are naturally focused on proximate targets, such as winning early states and meeting the DNC’s fundraising thresholds. As a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications and digital-marketing agency that has in the past served as an advertiser for Democratic presidential campaigns and super PACs, I follow this world closely. I’ve seen a number of campaigns begin to spend on digital advertising, but their ads are not focused on messages that will erode support for Trump. That’s not the role they are expected to play at this stage.”

“By tearing one another up over the impeachment question, Democrats only serve Trump’s interests by dividing and dispiriting the very people who most want him driven from office,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated column. “Personally, I continue to prefer a glorious election night in which Americans tell the world that we are not Trumpists and Trump is not us. The best way to get there is to focus public attention not on the impeachment debate itself but on the horror of Trump’s actions — and on the Republican Party’s flight from problem-solving…Thus, a modest proposal that is imperfect but may be the only practical way forward: Democrats should publicly time-limit their forbearance. Give the Trump administration a set amount of time — say, 60 days — to respond to subpoenas for witnesses and documents and end the blockade on testimony from current and former officials. Make clear that if the stonewalling continues, an impeachment inquiry will start…Given the Republicans’ complicity with Trump, it’s a near-certainty that only the voters can make this happen. All thinking about impeachment must keep this goal in mind.”

In his Vox post, “Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high,” Matthew Yglesias explains that “Public support for big government — more regulation, higher taxes, and more social services — has reached the highest level on record in one of the most prominent aggregate surveys of American public opinion…James Stimson, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina who’s one of the giants of American public opinion research, broke the news in a modest missive to a political science email listserv on June 6. He was sharing the news that the latest edition of Policy Mood, a composite look at American opinion across a range of polls on a range of issues, was available for public release…“The annual estimate for 2018 is the most liberal ever recorded in the 68 year history of Mood,” he wrote. “Just slightly higher than the previous high point of 1961.” However, concludes Yglesias, “while the public is more open to a surge of activist government activity than at any time in the past six decades, the odds of actually getting such a surge remain relatively low.”

Ronald Brownstein writes, also at The Atlantic, “Democrats debating whether to impeach Donald Trump may be misreading the evidence from the last time the House tried to remove a president…It’s become conventional wisdom—not only among Democrats but also among many political analysts—that House Republicans paid a severe electoral price for moving against Bill Clinton in 1998, at a time when polls showed most of the public opposed that action…But that straightforward conclusion oversimplifies impeachment’s effects, according to my analysis of the election results and interviews with key strategists who were working in national politics at the time. While Republicans did lose House seats in both 1998 and 2000, Democrats did not gain enough to capture control of the chamber either time. And in 2000, lingering unease about Clinton’s behavior provided a crucial backdrop for George W. Bush’s winning presidential campaign—particularly his defining promise “to restore honor and dignity” to the Oval Office.”

Brownstein continues, “Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in 2000, concurs. Bush’s ability to tap the public’s dismay over Clinton’s personal life “more than anything else got in our way in terms of winning the election,” he told me. Even if the Senate doesn’t convict Trump, Devine believes, impeachment in the House could offer Democrats a similar chance to highlight the aspects of Trump’s volatile behavior that most alienate swing voters…it’s easy to overstate the magnitude of the GOP’s backslide in 1998. In the Senate, Democrats gained no seats that year, leaving the Republican majority intact. Nor did the five-seat House loss cost the GOP its majority in that chamber. Republicans still won more of the total national popular vote in House races than Democrats. Swing voters didn’t stampede away from the GOP; in exit polls, Republicans still narrowly beat Democrats among independent voters.”

Brownstein concludes, “All of that suggests it’s not a guaranteed political winner for House Democrats to impeach Trump when there’s virtually no chance the Senate will vote to remove him. But the full ledger on Clinton’s impeachment invalidates the common assumption that impeachment without removal is a guaranteed political loser. Considering both the 1998 and 2000 elections, there’s considerable evidence that the struggle actually helped the GOP; at worst, its political impact was equivocal. Which means that, on impeachment, House Democrats may have more leeway than they believe to do what they think is legally and morally right.”

Matt Ford unveils a complicated plan for Supreme Court reform at The New Republic: “The best mechanism for reform would be a constitutional amendment. That process faces more hurdles, to say the least. But it would be less corrosive to the nation’s governance in the long term than letting Congress lob the Supreme Court’s membership back and forth like a frayed tennis ball. To build consensus around a constitutional amendment, the restructuring should also take place along neutral principles that favor neither side.” Ford proposed relinking Supreme Court seats to the circuit courts, throwing in term limits and then “When one of the justices leaves the court, their replacement would be chosen by lottery from among the federal judges in their seat’s respective circuit. To avoid the oddities that come from an even-numbered court, a thirteenth seat would be held by the chief justice, who would be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.” All of this would have to be done by constitutional amendment.” For Democrats, however, the quickest route to high court reform is forget about constitutional amendments. As former Supreme Court clerk and law professor Ian Samuel has argued, “You could amend the constitution to fundamentally change the way the court works — that’s very hard to do. You could try impeaching justices, but that would also be very hard to do and not obviously justifiable,” he said. “Then you have this idea of changing the size of the Supreme Court that has this wonderful virtue that it’s just doable with ordinary legislation the next time you happen to hold political power in the elected branches of government.” Yes, it would require a Democratic landslide. But that’s what we are fighting for anyway.

Steven Greenhouse, author of the forthcomming “Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor,” makes the case that “Unions should draw up a Contract for the American Worker and make it clear they will only support candidates who endorse it” at The Guardian: “Such a “Contract” could call for”: A $15 federal minimum wage by 2024; Paid parental leave for 12 weeks; Paid sick leave (at least five days per year); Paid vacation; Universal health coverage; Free community college; and Lifelong training credits. “For too long, largely because of the disproportionate power of business, workers in the wealthiest nation have gone without many basic protections. This proposed contract would aim to end what I call “America’s anti-worker exceptionalism”….Whichever candidates back this Contract for the American Worker can trumpet themselves as true friends of workers. Those who don’t will need to explain to voters why American workers deserve less than workers in other advanced industrial nations.”

Tomorrow, House Democrats will vote to hold AG William Barr and Don McGahn in contempt of Congress. Michael Tomasky writes at The Daily Beast that “The contempt vote is without precedent in the modern history of the country. Never before (that I’m aware of) have two very high-ranking officials been charged with contempt on the same matter and on the same day…Tuesday’s vote isn’t just symbolically nailing some hapless AG to the cross to make him bleed in public for a few hours. This is part of an investigation into genuine presidential obstruction of justice. And it involves both Trump’s attorney general and his former White House counsel, who is described in the Mueller Report as saying that the president directed him to obstruct justice…Assuming Barr doesn’t budge, the next step against him should clearly be impeachment…And McGahn? He can’t be impeached. But he can be disgraced. What the Democrats need to understand here is that the contempt vote is not the end of anything. It’s the beginning. Holding the two attorneys in contempt is step number one in bringing them before the bar of justice—in working what remains of their consciences, which in Barr’s case particularly seems to be pretty close to nothing, and in forcing them to capitulate to what both surely know is a justified pursuit of the truth, and threatening them with a pretty bad next 10 or 20 years if they don’t.”

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