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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a must-read column, “The government doesn’t have to take over everything. But it should expand choice,” which distills a powerful argument for the public option and an antidote to simplistic government-bashing. As Dionne writes, “When a government bureaucrat fails us, the response is often along the lines of: “Typical government.” But when a private sector bureaucrat fails us, almost nobody says: “Typical private sector.”…We should worship neither the state nor the private sector. But after decades of reflexively running down government, we need to rediscover what it actually does, and can do…For this reason, I hope every 2020 presidential candidate — yes, I’m being optimistic about President Trump — reads the policy book of the summer, “The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity and Promote Equality,” by Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott. The two law professors are not interested in government taking over everything. On the contrary, what they seek is to expand choice.”

Dionne continues, “A public option, they write, “provides an important service at a reasonable cost, and it co-exists, quite peaceably, with one or more private options offering the same service.” Thus: You can use the post office, or ship with FedEx or UPS. You can stay in a national park or go to a private resort. You can use a public library or buy a book. You can head down the fairway at a municipal golf course or join a country club…Notice that while public options are available to everyone, they’re especially useful for those who don’t have a lot of money. Sitaraman and Alstott suggest new areas where they could be helpful: for health insurance, where the idea is already popular; for child care; for retirement savings to supplement Social Security; and for basic banking. The last could address the needs of roughly 14 million Americans, many with low incomes, who have neither checking nor savings accounts…The authors are under no illusion that every public option will work well all the time, and they acknowledge the difficulties faced by public schools and public housing. But they also rightly insist that the problems facing both are aggravated by “America’s intense residential segregation by race and by class.”

Dionne adds, “Critics of public options might call them socialism. But as Sitaraman and Alstott note, “public options can benefit the private sector.” They can create a more fluid labor market by providing health insurance and retirement coverage that individuals can take with them from one employer to another, thus easing “job lock.” They can also introduce more competition into concentrated markets. Municipally provided broadband, for example, might provide a consumer-friendly alternative to a monopoly provider of high-cost, poor-service Internet connections.” This point about the public option being a major assett to busines, particularly small businesses, has been woefully undersold by Democrats, who could reap huge political rewards if small business people gave full consideration to the savings they would get from public option health insurance alone.

Harry Enten reports at CNNPolitics: A new national CNN/SSRS poll finds that President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40%. His disapproval rating is 54%. His approval rating is down from late June when it was 43%. His disapproval rating is slightly up from 52% in late June…Take a look at these other probability-based polls that meet CNN’s standards and were completed over the last two weeks.
  • AP-NORC puts the President’s approval rating at 36%, down from 38%.
  • Fox News gave Trump a 43% approval rating, a decrease from 46%.
  • Gallup shows Trump’s approval rating at 41%, down from 42% in late July and 44% in early July.
  • Monmouth University pegs Trump’s approval rating at 40%, down from 41%.
  • NBC News/Wall Street Journal found Trump had an approval rating of 43% among all adults, a decrease of 2 points from 45% in July among registered voters and 1 point from 44% in their last poll that surveyed all adults in June.

At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr. shares “Four Interesting Findings From The Recent Flurry Of 2020 Polls,” including: “Biden does about equally well among men and women. In fact, the leading Democratic candidates — Biden, Sanders, Warren and Kamala Harris — all have coalitions that are roughly balanced in terms of gender, according to Pew. So there’s not really a gender gap among Democratic primary voters — at least so far…But the gender of the candidates appears to be more of a factor. Polling suggests Harris and Warren are appealing to the same kinds of voters: people with college degrees — both men and women. A disproportionate share of both Harris and Warren’s support comes from college graduates, per the Pew data. In short, maybe college graduates, more so than women, are open to or excited about a female presidential candidate — or at least Harris and Warren in particular. Or conversely, non-college voters — both men and women — have so far been less likely to support the top-tier women running.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Bacon notes that “46 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 51 percent disapprove, according to a new AP-NORC poll. His approval numbers are lower on other issues, including gun policy (36 percent approve, 61 disapprove), health care (37-60), immigration (38-60) and foreign policy (36-61).” It’s hard to see how Trump’s numbers get better on any of these issues, particularly amid growing concerns about his trade war policies.

Bacon also notes that “In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.3 percentage points (46.2 percent to 39.9 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.2 points (46.1 percent to 39.9 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.4 points (46.2 percent to 39.8 percent).” We hasten to add, however, that gerrymandered congressional districts render such a broad national average nearly useless for predicting the final Democratic/Republican breakdown of the House when all of the 2020 ballots are counted. But the poll does serve as a general indication of how the Democrats are doing from week to week, and for now, a 6.3 edge looks pretty good.

At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza shares some salient thoughts on the importance of crowd size in assessing a Elizabeth Warren’s momentum: “Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren spoke in front of 15,000 people at a campaign rally in Seattle, Washington…And, the Seattle crowd wasn’t an anomaly.  In St. Paul, Minnesota last week, Warren’s campaign estimated 12,000 people turned out to see her.  She had an estimated 4,000 people at a town hall in Los Angeles earlier this month…Where do Warren’s crowds fit on that spectrum between Romney’s false positive and Obama’s, uh, true, positive?  It’s hard to say definitely at the moment but here’s what we know:

1. Being able to attract 15,000 people to a campaign rally in late August of an off year is pretty impressive
2. Crowd size, particularly in a primary, is a generally consistent indicator of organic energy
3.  Polling — including a new Monmouth University national poll released on Monday — suggest Warren is on the rise
When you factor in that context, Warren’s crowds of late almost certainly are an indicator of genuine momentum and excitement surrounding her candidacy.  No . matter what any of her rivals might say behind closed doors (or in public) about what Warren’s crowds mean (or don’t mean), you can be sure that each and every one of them would LOVE to be able to draw in the numbers that the Massachusetts Senator is right now.”

To conclude on a positive note, Ed Kilgore explains why “Democrats Disagree About Labels, Not About Issues” at New York Magazine: “There is no hoarier meme in American politics than “Democrats in disarray.”You know, the assumption that (to trot out as many clichés as possible in one sentence) the Donkey Party is deeply divided between progressives and centrists, the Establishment and insurgents, the left and the middle, populist base-mobilizers and moderate swing-voter-persuaders, perpetually forming a circular firing squad and making life easier for the GOP and assorted other Bad People. Add in disagreements over racial, ethnic, and gender identity as well as arguments about whether economics should trump culture, and you do have the appearance of a party that doesn’t know its own mind, particularly when Democratic tribes trade insults…With the exception of gun control (on which both parties are pretty strongly united), Democrats are more united on issues than Republicans are. When you look at different self-identified ideological “tribes” of Democrats, issue differences do exist, but they aren’t as large as you might expect, particularly between liberals and moderates (the most divisive issue is immigration, but even liberals are divided significantly on that)…And when you look at levels of issue agreement for Democrats across demographic categories, the party really does begin to seem like one whose differences are more symbolic than substantive. Old folks, for example, are as likely to be “liberal” on issues as under-30s, and racial-ethnic differences aren’t dramatic either…And perhaps when the subject at hand is policy or attitudes toward the 45th president, rather than abstract questions about the ideological future of the party, Democrats are not really that much in disarray.”

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