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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats Need a Hard-Nosed Strategy to Counter the GOP” by Jessica Tarlov, head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor, at RealClear Politics: “The saying goes: “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” One only has to look at how Republicans have stood by President Trump as he degrades our intelligence community and immigrants while raising up dictators to see evidence of this.” Tarlov cites five steps for Democrats in order to “evolve”: Step 1: Do not play into the right-wing narrative; Step 2: Appreciate battle-tested leaders; Step 3: Defend Obamacare; Step 4: Find an animating issue, and; Step 5: Listen to minorities. Tarlov concludes, “These are just a few ways that can help us get a little bit closer to having the same hard-nosed GOP mentality that puts preserving and accumulating power above all else…We will never become as heartless as they are. It isn’t in our DNA and it certainly isn’t in our policy platform. But game recognizes game and we must rehab our strategy.”

Ian Reifowitz has a reality check for Democratic candidates in his post, We’ll cut your taxes and guarantee your health care. How’s that for a Democratic campaign pitch? at Daily Kos: to “Campaigns are about a lot of things. But a winning presidential campaign must make clear how it will improve the lives of large numbers of Americans. A campaign has to lay out lots of policies, yes, on lots of different topics. But a winning presidential campaign must center on a simple, digestible policy statement, a concrete proposal for change that also connects to a broader theme unifying everything the candidate plans to do…I understand that for some of us progressives, talking about tax rates doesn’t feel as immediate, or perhaps as inspiring, as talking about some other issues. But making our tax code more progressive is one of the most direct ways elected officials can combat economic inequality. For most Americans, cutting their taxes and guaranteeing their health insurance coverage are real, tangible things that the federal government can do for them and their families simply by enacting new legislation. That’s why those issues need to be at the center of any campaign for national office. Furthermore, economic inequality is not just about dollars and cents, it’s about life and death…Democrats are the party that fights for all Americans—white, black, brown, and everything else—to make this country fairer, more just, safer, and more prosperous for everyone. The Republicans, on the other hand, are the party that favors those at the very top—while driving a wedge between the rest of us. That’s a winning message that will not only defeat Donald Trump (or his replacement, if his congressional allies actually develop the courage to put country first), but defeat Republicans up and down the ballot.”

Ian Milhiser explains “How a Jim Crow law still shapes Mississippi’s elections: It makes it all but impossible for a Democrat to win in November” at Vox: “For statewide positions other than US senator, Mississippi uses a system similar to the electoral college. It’s not enough for a candidate to simply win the statewide popular vote. Rather, they must win both a majority of the popular vote and win a majority of the state’s 122 state house districts. If no candidate clears both of these hurdles, the state house chooses the winner from the top two candidates…Republicans currently control almost 60 percent of the state’s house of representatives. And state house districts are gerrymandered in a way that would make it very difficult for [Democratic candidate for Governor Jim] Hood to win a majority of those districts…Indeed, a lawsuit challenging this system suggests that Hood may need to win at least 55 percent of the vote in order to prevail in the gubernatorial election…Jim Hood is Democrats’ best chance in two decades of winning Mississippi’s gubernatorial race. But that’s not likely to be enough, thanks to an electoral system contrived by racist delegates more than a century ago.”

Ana Ceballos reports that “Florida Democrats focus on voter registration as most critical need for 2020” at The Orlando Weekly: “If Florida Democrats could sum up the state party’s early 2020 strategy in three words, they would be registration, registration, registration. During the party’s convention this weekend in Orlando, leaders stressed they have fixed past errors in their voter-registration strategy and are busy building a more Democratic-friendly electorate more than a year from Election Day…Since launching a registration program in June, more than 49,000 new Democratic voters have been registered, according to data the party provided to The News Service of Florida. In that same period, 48,000 voters registered as Republicans and 63,570 registered with no-party affiliation…More than $3 million has been invested by the Democratic Party to try to register 200,000 new voters before the general election, when Republican President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket. Most of the money so far has gone toward putting more community organizers on college campuses and in swing districts across the state. “If we focus on the swing districts, not only do we win the presidency, but we pick up quite a few (congressional) seats as well,” Peñalosa told reporters on Saturday.”

Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, writes at The Conversation and Salon: “Election polls often fail to heed the lessons that have been hard-won by decades of survey research. Pollsters build their surveys around the idea that voters begin with firm beliefs, evaluate candidates on the basis of those beliefs and will explain their reasoning when prompted. In reality, voters often just respond to party signals, and can rarely explain their reasoning to pollsters…While there have been many changes in the American electorate over the last half-century, political scientists have replicated the core findings in The American Voter, including two updates. In studies of political behavior, party identification is nearly always the 800-pound gorilla in the room…Voters rarely admit that party is why they vote the way they do, after all.” Yet, “Research shows that party has more predictive power than anything else.”

“GOP candidates for president can expect to be victorious in 65 percent of future presidential elections and University of Texas at Austin researchers analyzed why “inversions” — where the popular vote winner loses the overall election — has happened twice since 2000,” Benjamin Fearnow notes in his article, “Electoral College Overhelmingly Favors Republicans, Abolishing Enture System Only Remedy: Study” at Newsweek. “The study authors found that the Electoral College’s winner-take-all approach favors Republicans and has pushed them to victories in 2000 and 2016…The researchers concluded that inversions will occur more and more in 2020 and beyond unless a policy change completely dissolves, rather than reforms, the Electoral College…The study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research last month found that one-third of presidential candidates who win the popular by less than 2 percentage points can still lose the Electoral College votes. In races decided by fewer than one percentage point, there’s a 45 percent chance the popular vote winner still manages to lose the Electoral College…”Feasible policy changes—including awarding each state’s Electoral College ballots proportionally between parties rather than awarding all to the state winner—could substantially reduce inversion probabilities, though not in close elections,” the study authors proposed.”

“Well I would say that about six of the current Democratic candidates now have a very robust comprehensive rural platform. I’ve been quite heartened to see that. It’s more attention paid to that space than I’ve ever witnessed in my just shy of 40 years. And that’s no doubt for political calculations. But I think also because there are some progressive candidates who deeply understand their sort of baseline tactics which is to go at wealth inequality and economic injustice, [which] tracks very perfectly with the ways in which family farms and rural people have been on the losing end of policy for many decades.” – from Sarah Smarsh, author of “Heartland, A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” quoted by Robin Young at wbur.com.

In their introduction to Dissent’s Fall, 2019 Special Section, “Rural America Reimagined,” Max Fraser and Garett Dash Nelson opine, “Rural voters have turned away from left politics in part because of divisive and fraudulent temptations from the right, but also in part because they frequently have not had any compelling reasons to stand by the left. From the embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s to the belief in an urban-centered electoral “demographic destiny” in the 2010s, the Democratic Party, an unreliable ally of the left in any case, has too often acted in complicity with the very same forces that are hollowing out rural America. Popular movements, on the other hand, have largely neglected to organize in rural communities, whether because of the very real challenges associated with doing so or the common perception that the costs are too high and the payoffs too limited. The result has been the partisan stalemate that defines our current electoral landscape—and suffocates any current hope for a more transformative politics, at a time when rising social inequality and runaway climate change demand one more than ever.”

Also in Dissent, Carla Murphy writes in “Why We Need a Working-Class Media” that “The evidence of media’s disinterest in actual working-class realities comes as a steady drip. It adds up to a narrative of a disenfranchised, neutered working class, trotted out for affluent readers interested in poverty or angry populist stories. For too long, we’ve settled for being written about but not for…In sum, up and down the class ladder, all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. Saturday Night Live, in the tense weeks before November 2016, featured Tom Hanks as a stereotypical Southern red neck, the only white contestant, on Black Jeopardy. The skit captures a lonely, almost shunned idea: that there’s more crawl space between same-class racial groups than is popularly imagined or broadcast. I crave a news media that explores that territory. Such an evolution won’t come from existing institutions, however. The weaponization of identity and foreignness in this presidential election cycle is already making past dog whistles seem quaint. Yet newsrooms, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis, are 77 percent white. After two decades of consolidation, downsizing, and buyouts, they also tend to be middle-class and up. At worst, they are out of touch; at best, short-handed and unprepared.”

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