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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Dixie Is (Still) Done: The author revisits his 2006 argument that the Democrats should forget the South—and finds that the non-Southern strategy still holds” at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Tom Schaller doubles down on his ‘skip the South’ strategy for Democrats. Schaller writes that “Democrats in “new South” states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida with liberal “ideopolises”—as John Judis and Ruy Teixeira termed them in their book, The Emerging Democratic Majority—can cobble together winning statewide coalitions comprised of black voters, the Latino community, and white liberals clustered around major cities and university towns. Sometimes that’s enough to deliver Democratic presidential electors.” Yet, Schaller notes, “Setting aside the difference between the states Obama and Clinton won, the important and oft-ignored parallel between their two winning coalitions matters more: Both won some Southern states, yet both amassed more than 270 non-Southern electors. Dixie was vital to none of their four combined victories.” Schaller also provides data on southern office holders to support his contention.

However, Schaller explains, “Virginia excepted, the South is even more Republican than when my book first published. In the past decade, an increasingly progressive Democratic Party has proven that it could win both congressional majorities and the presidency with a non-Southern strategy. Although the party has by now likely reached its electoral rock-bottom in the former Confederacy, Democratic revival in post-Donald Trump America necessarily begins outside Dixie.” Schaller concludes, “Thirteen years after publication of Whistling Past Dixie, white Southerners’ partisan reversal continues to have vast and seismic implications for both parties, and for state and national policy. Long before Donald Trump glided down that escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, the South’s partisan and policy legacy was evident for all to see. In that sense, the South continues to serve as the vanguard for the preservation of white power in the United States. Whether they whistle or shout, Democrats invested in the political-electoral potency of an inclusive coalition derived from an increasingly mixed-race American populace have little reason to invest precious resources in Dixie.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares his take on the Democratic presidential  candidate debate: “After spending the first half-hour of Thursday’s debate tearing each other apart over health care — which happens to be their party’s strongest issue — the Democratic presidential candidates realized that their opponent is President Trump and acted accordingly…As a result, despite jabs and disagreements throughout a three-hour marathon, they offered a far less divisive performance than they (and an additional 10 contenders) turned in during the first two debates…And they underscored the degree to which they broadly agree on issues ranging from gun control, climate change, immigration — and even, despite their fierce disputes on Medicare-for-all, on the need to guarantee health insurance to all Americans…It was the best debate so far, partly because the ABC News moderators did not focus quite as much as earlier questioners did on inspiring conflict…”

At Vox, Dylan Scott and Tara Golshan focus on the differences between the trade policies of the Democratic presidential candidates revealed in the Houston debate: “On Thursday, the divide was roughly exemplified by Sanders targeting Biden’s record of voting for free-trade agreements over the years in the Senate. Biden, meanwhile, sought a middle ground, dismissing concerns about a trade deficit with China while trying to focus on alleged IP abuses instead. Warren largely sidestepped the Sanders-Biden fray while signaling her intention to implement a much more muscular trade agenda than the free-trade-friendly centrist consensus of the last few decades. Meanwhile, Harris, who has occupied fourth place in the polls, cautioned that she’s not some “protectionist Democrat.” “We’ve got to sell our stuff,” she said, seemingly defending Obama’s approach to free trade…In the 2020 field, Warren and Sanders make up the vocal trade skeptics. There are the trade-friendly Democrats like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden who stake out more of a Clinton/Obama-esque free-trade position. Going into Thursday night’s debate, candidates like Harris and Buttigieg were kind of stuck in between.”

A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted Sept. 6-10 finds that “Nearly 6 in 10 Americans…believe immediate action is necessary on climate change, while over two-thirds said humans are capable of taking action against it,” Zack Budryk reports at The Hill. The poll, which has a 2.2 percent margin of error, “found 56 percent of respondents in favor of immediate action, with 7 in 10 saying human activity contributes to climate change and 67 saying we can do something about it. More respondents — 48 percent — said humans can slow climate change than the 19 percent who said they can stop it entirely…Ninety-one percent of respondents acknowledged climate change is occurring. About 80 percent said they trust scientists a lot or somewhat on climate…The poll also found a partisan split on belief in the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. A majority of self-identified Democrats agreed with the scientific consensus while a majority of Republicans said they believed there is disagreement among scientists.”

“Hispanic Democrats and independents who had lost homes or home equity were less likely to vote in 2016, compared with Hispanic Democrats and independents who did not experience such losses, according to the study, “Vanishing Wealth, Vanishing Votes? Latino Homeownership and the 2016 Election in Florida.” Hispanic Republicans, on the other hand, showed up at the polls, regardless of any lost wealth…“The housing crisis made Latino Democrats and independents stay home,” explains [the study’s author, Jacob] Rugh…The share of Hispanics who voted Republican was larger in 2016 than it had been in 2012 while the share of Hispanics who voted as Democrats or independents fell — helping shift Florida from a blue state in 2012 to a red one in 2016…“Results from 2016 and 2018 strongly suggest that a more entrenched pattern of partisanship has taken hold among Florida voters, including Latinos,” Rugh writes. “In Florida, there are relatively few Mexican origin Latinos, yet a disproportionately higher share of Puerto Ricans (more Democratic yet less active), and Cubans and South Americans (more Republican and more active). This mix of Latino nationalities, partisanship, and voter activity … informs the future of elections elsewhere because the century-long wave of Mexican immigration is over and the U.S. Latino population is becoming more native born and less Mexican with each passing year.” – from “Drop in voter turnout among Hispanic Democrats linked to home foreclosures” by Denise-Marie Ordway at Journalist’s Resource.

“Regarding presidential elections, voter turnout for the U.S. population has stayed relatively stable since 1980 (with the exception of a slightly higher turnout in 1992 and a dip in 1996 and 2000),” Rashawn Ray and Mark Whitlock write at Brookings. “While whites traditionally have the highest voter turnout relative to other racial groups, Blacks have higher voter turnout than Hispanics and Asians. In fact, Black voter turnout was within 1 percentage point of whites in 2008 (65.2% compared to 66.1%) and was actually higher than whites in 2012 (66.6% compared to 64.1%). In 2016, voter turnout for Blacks dipped to 59.6%. While that number was lower than whites (65.3%), it was still higher than Asians (49.3%) and Hispanics (47.6%)…Some city and state elections further debunk the stereotype that Blacks don’t vote. Cities electing their first Black mayors, such as Little Rock’s Frank Scott and Birmingham’s Randall Woodfin, had high voter turnouts, particularly among Blacks. In fact, Brookings’s Andre Perry reported that the high turnout of Black voters, especially Black women, in Birmingham actually propelled Doug Jones to the Senate. In the governor races in Georgia and Florida, involving candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, respectively, voter turnout among Blacks was also high. Noting this in Florida is particularly relevant since an amendment restored voting rights to over 1 million state residents. Nearly one-quarter of Blacks in Florida could not vote before the November 2018 midterm elections. Research notes that incarceration for Blacks has also been used as a form of voter disenfranchisement.”

Ray and Whitlock note that “Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp put over 50,000 voter registrations on hold, 70% of which were from Black residents. (Considering that Kemp was running for governor, this seemed like a clear conflict of interest.) Regarding voter disenfranchisement, several states with large and growing Black and Hispanic populations closed polling places: Texas closed over 400 polling places, Arizona closed over 200, and the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina collectively have closed over 250 polling places. These closings are a direct result of the Supreme Court choosing not to hold the Voting Rights Act intact. The stripping of the Voting Rights Act has led to more discrimination regarding voter identification, poll closures, and gerrymandering at state and local levels.”

Writing at The Washington Monthly, Suzanne Gordon and Jasper Craven  explain how “The Trump Administration Is Sabotaging Veterans’ Access to Health Care,” and note: “The VA Mission Act is widely considered the most significant—and ideologically motivated—veterans’ law in a generation. Passed by a GOP-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, it established a sweeping new private sector healthcare program, the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) and granted the Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, with wide latitude to set eligibility criteria that determines when veterans can use private-sector care…The law garnered significant support from powerful healthcare interests, and savvy conservative veterans’ groups who have a great deal of influence in Trump’s Washington. But it was also supported by traditional veterans’ service organizations and some Democrats. This is largely because it expanded services to disabled veterans, but also because the final text contained stringent requirements that veterans could only be moved into private facilities for legitimate clinical needs, or if they faced burdensome wait or drive times at their nearest VHA clinic, assuaging the concerns about VA privatization. (Care inside the VHA, while often maligned in the media, is generally cheaper and better, with shorter wait times than what’s offered in the private sector.)”

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