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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Ella Nilsen’s “Republicans dominate state legislatures. That decides political power in America” at Vox: “Republicans now have total control of 30 state legislatures — both the House and Senate — compared to just 18 by Democrats. Just two states, Minnesota and Alaska, have split chambers…The Democratic Party and DLCC flipped eight state chambers in 2018 and broke Republican supermajorities in three other states. Post says they’re planning to expand on that in 2020, with a targeted list of 12 states:

  • Arizona: Democrats are two seats away from taking a majority in the state House and three seats away from a majority in the Senate.
  • Florida: Democrats are 14 seats away from a majority in the state House.
  • Georgia: Democrats are 28 seats away from taking a majority in the state House, but they’re hoping to gain seats in 2020.
  • Iowa: Democrats are four seats away from a majority in the Iowa state House.
  • Kansas: Democrats are trying to break Republican supermajorities in both chambers; Democrat Laura Kelly won the governor’s seat in 2018.
  • Michigan: Democrats broke a Republican supermajority in the state Senate in 2018 and are four seats away from flipping the chamber.
  • Minnesota: Democrats are two seats away from a majority in the state Senate. They won control of the state House in 2018.
  • North Carolina: Democrats are six seats away from taking control of the state House.
  • Pennsylvania: Democrats broke a Republican supermajority in the state Senate in 2018. They are 9 seats away from a majority in the state House, and four seats away from a majority in the state Senate.
  • Texas: Democrats are nine seats away from a majority in the Texas state House.
  • Virginia: Democrats are two seats away from a majority in the state House of Delegates, and two seats away from a majority in the state Senate as well. Elections are coming up in 2019.
  • Wisconsin: Democrats are three seats away from a majority in the Wisconsin state Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic legacy and impressive accomplishments can only be diminished by her making divisive comments about other Democrats. It’s hard enough for Democratic primary candidates to avoid the circular firing squad, without party leaders getting drawn into a pointless snarkfest.

In his New York Times column, “Trump Needs His Base to Burn with Anger,” Thomas B. Edsall comments on the futility of Democrats spending too much effort on converting Trump’s persuadable supporters: “John Kane, a political scientist at N.Y.U. and a co-author of a new paper, “Ingroup Lovers or Outgroup Haters? The Social Roots of Trump Support and Partisan Identity,”…described Trump’s lock on a key set of voters: “For Republicans that absolutely loathe and detest” such progressive constituencies as minorities, immigrants and members of the LGBT community, Kane wrote, “an appeal from Democratic Party elite is likely to be dismissed out of hand.”…Among Republicans more sympathetic to these liberal groups, Kane continued, “the share that could, under any circumstances, actually vote for a Democrat is quite small, below 10 percent, and this is likely concentrated among those who only weakly identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.”

At The Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift warns “Embracing Medicare for All Will Put the Democratic Party on Life Support: Yes, Medicare for All polls well—until people learn details, when support craters. Democrats must steer clear of this disaster waiting to happen.” Clift explains: “Taking away something that millions of people like is never a good idea. With health care the top issue for voters, “Talking about Medicare for All hands the Republicans an ICBM, a nuclear warhead they can fire in different directions,” says Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. There’s the cost, $32 trillion over 10 years, according to the left-leaning Urban Institute. The payroll tax would likely be doubled, and the choice of private insurance ended or severely restricted. Republicans would have a heyday stoking generalized anxiety about an empowered federal government, or worse, when they’re in charge they could cut back the program.”

Meanwhile movements for Medicaid expansion are gathering momentum. Rebekah Barber reports at Facing South that “state legislatures refused federal money to expand Medicaid, leaving 2 million people nationwide in the coverage gap, meaning they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for ACA Marketplace premium tax credits. And 90 percent of those in the coverage gap live in the South, where just five states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.” Barber reports on active Mediucaid expansion movements in the southern states, including Virginia, where Medicaid expansion took place this year under the leadership of Democrats and West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana where Democratic governors have used executive orders to expand coverage. Barber adds that “That leaves the Southern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas without expanded Medicaid programs. But there are efforts underway in some of those states to change that.”

For a data-rich profile of today’s Democratic rank and file — those who will pick the party’s presidential nominee — check out Michael Tomasky’s article, “The Rules of the Game” in The New York Review of Books, which notes, “I asked Alan Abramowitz, the esteemed electoral demographer at Emory University, and he shared with me some numbers from the 2017 Pew Political Typology Survey, which he describes as being based on “a very large and high-quality sample” (the Pew numbers include Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents)…Democrats in the Pew survey skew younger than their Republican counterparts. About 43 percent are under forty, and just 12 percent are over seventy (the numbers for Republicans in those categories are 32 and 17 percent, respectively). A rather remarkable 56 percent are female. Just 54 percent are white, as opposed to more than 70 percent of Democrats on social media, with blacks and Latinos constituting 19 percent each (Republicans are 81 percent white). Of four designated income levels, the most represented by far is the lowest, under $30,000, at 36 percent. Likewise, of four designated education levels, the most represented by far is high school or less, at 37 percent—although interestingly, 15 percent of Democrats have graduate degrees, while only 8 percent of Republicans do. About a third of Democrats don’t express a religious affiliation, which means two-thirds of them do, which again is quite different, at least in my experience, from Twitter Democrats, who seem for the most part irreligious…What’s really arresting, however, is that—again according to the Pew numbers—only 46 percent of these Democrats describe themselves as very liberal or liberal. Another 37 percent call themselves moderate, and fully 15 percent—of Democrats—say they’re conservative.”

Tomasky continues, “Now consider some more numbers. Last November, Gallup asked Democrats and Republicans if they’d like their party to be more moderate or more (respectively) liberal or conservative. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents wanted their party to be more conservative, by 57 to 37 percent. But among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the numbers were 54 percent more moderate, and 41 percent more liberal…In other words, overall, and contrary to much of what one sees on the cable networks, the Democratic Party is still a liberal-to-moderate party. Add to this what appears to be an emphasis among the rank and file on choosing the candidate who seems most likely to beat Donald Trump, and one can readily see why Joe Biden shot to the top of the polls after announcing that he was running. The party’s base seethes with hatred for Trump, but it doesn’t necessarily want a radical program of change—which it will not get in any case, since Mitch McConnell seems likely to remain the Senate majority leader. It just wants to win, rid the republic of this curse, and worry later about what comes after. To such people, a former vice-president and establishment figure who might be able to win back those famous lost voters of 2016 looks, for now, like the safe choice.”

Lest we forget how the stage was set for the current mess, Paul Waldman writes in “How Florida 2000 Created Our Modern Dysfunction: It’s when the GOP learned that winning washes away all your sins” at The American Prospect that “There was no reckoning, no comeuppance, no price to be paid. Bush proceeded through the highs and lows of his presidency, among other things appointing two justices to the Supreme Court. And when Barack Obama got elected, Mitch McConnell and the rest of congressional Republicans mounted a strategy of unceasing obstruction, including shutting down the government, threatening the faith and credit of the United States of America, and slowing Obama’s ability to fill judicial vacancies to a crawl, culminating with their theft of a Supreme Court seat…Their punishment for all that? The Oval Office in the hands of Donald Trump, quite possibly the single most morally repellent human being to ever sit there, and yet another Republican who became president while losing the popular vote. In other words, no punishment at all…It turns out that when winning is all that matters to you, you can win quite a lot.” What should Democrats have done? Maybe the better questions are what should the media have done and what should progressive activists have done? Raised a lot more hell about it is one answer. Looking forward, a Democratic landslide which can establish election by the popular vote is the best response. 

From Michelle Chen’s “Hardhats vs. Hippies”: How the Media Misrepresents the Debate Over the Green New Deal” at In These Times: “Backing the Green New Deal is a way to extend union support for working people beyond wages and benefits, because the Green New Deal is a social contract to form the foundation of a sustainable economy. From a practical standpoint, as a dwindling labor movement strives to remain relevant to the working masses, there simply is no bigger bread-and-butter issue than our land, air, water and health…It is shortsighted for the media to present labor’s skepticism toward the Green New Deal as akin to the far-right’s climate skepticism. Globally, a consensus is crystallizing on the left: There is no future in which workers are not on the frontline of climate-driven social transformation, either as survivors, or as agents of change.”

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