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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga,” Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Prokop address the question, “What’s Going on in the Polls? Is any of this hurting Trump?”: “The potential impeachment of Donald Trump has been a hot topic of political discussion for a long time, and it’s mostly been unpopular. According to FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive tracker of impeachment polls, in the period between the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the storm of Ukraine news, support for impeaching Trump ranged between 35 and 40 percent, with opposition consistently above 50 percent…That has changed since the Ukraine story became public knowledge, with support for impeaching Trump now hovering around 50 percent and opposition a bit below 45 percent. Note, however, that while impeachment has gotten a lot more popular, it lags behind overall approval of Trump’s job performance. A somewhat larger share of the public say they disapprove of Trump than those who say they want to see him impeached.”

Will Impeachment Matter in 2020?” Elaine Kamarck addresses the question at Brookings and observes, “Impeachment has taken on enormous importance to the political class because it is an issue of constitutional and historical import. But in the end it may not matter to voters very much at all. Opinion about Trump has been fairly stable since he was elected—he is probably the most polarizing American president since the Civil War—so impeachment may simply play into people’s already hardened attitudes. In addition, other things might end up being more important in 2020. Demographic trends like the maturation of a generation of Latino voters, for instance, may start to have electoral consequences in 2020…The fact that public opinion on impeachment and opinion on Trump appears to be stuck in a holding pattern may simply be a reflection of a firmly polarized electorate. If, as appears to be the case, a trial in the Senate is wrapped up by early 2020, impeachment may be a distant memory by November.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Democrats have put their differences above beating Trump. Bloomberg is a symptom not a cure,” merits a thoughtful read by Democrats. As Dionne, writes, “Democratic presidential candidates are doing a bang-up job of suggesting that their differences matter more than defeating Trump. And former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preparations to enter the contest won’t help…Let it be said that despite serious blind spots, Bloomberg was a very good and, on many fronts, broadly progressive mayor. He deserves our thanks for using his wealth to finance an increasingly powerful gun-control movement…But it’s hard to see his winning a lot of Democratic primaries, and not just because he turned himself into a temporary Republican to get to City Hall. From the moment word went out that he was pondering a campaign for president, he sharpened the class and ideological divisions within the Democratic electorate…Somewhere on the seventh tee, the phony populist Trump is laughing. One side of the Democratic Party is denouncing its foes as class enemies and apologists of the rich. The other argues that champions of the left will destroy the American economy. Is this how Democrats want to spend the next few months?”

Regarding the highest policy priority of the Dems, Dionne ads, “Democrats have the high ground on health care now. In Kentucky’s race for governor, Democrat Andy Beshear demonstrated that even Trump voters want to save and build on the Affordable Care Act. Why throw away this advantage? All Democrats should support universal coverage, but we can get there, as other countries have, through mixed public-private systems. Arguments over Medicare-for-all would make sense after we finish the initial work of covering everyone…But here’s the larger issue: Democrats need a leader who can remind progressives and moderates that they have far more in common than their current strife would suggest. These competing camps agree on the urgency of ousting Trump, but also on getting health insurance to everyone, moving forcefully on climate change, acting humanely on immigration, defending civil and voting rights, and pushing back against growing inequality…The person who rises to the task of pulling these sides together will deserve the nomination. Will one of these candidates even audition for the part?”

It turns out that 2019 has been a very good year for Democratic women. As Julia Manchester explains at The Hill: “Democratic women candidates backed by groups such as Emerge America continued to make gains in the 2019 elections, closing the gender gap in a number of state and local governments…In Virginia, a record 65 Democratic women won their races in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, giving Democrats majorities in both legislatures…Tuesday’s elections also saw women win mayoral races for the first time in Scranton and Tucson, and make up a majority for the first time on Boston’s City Council…Officials at Emerge, an organization devoted to electing Democratic women, emphasized the adoption of a strategy that targeted GOP-controlled districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 in Virginia…The group reported having backed over 230 candidates on the ballot in the 2019 election, with 125 of those women winning their races as of Wednesday.”

Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “There’s one last lesson that the 2019 results suggest about 2020, but it’s one that we already knew: Turnout is likely to be through the roof. In Kentucky, we estimate based on preliminary data that 43 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot for governor; not only is that much, much higher than the 30 percent of the voting-eligible population that we estimate turned out in 2015, but it’s also higher than the 42 percent who voted in the Senate race in the regular 2010 midterm election. In Virginia, we already know that more people voted than in any state-legislative-only election since at least 1976 — and The Washington Post estimates that there could be thousands of votes left to count. If we see a corresponding spike in turnout between 2016 (already a pretty high-turnout election by recent standards) and 2020, polling places could be overwhelmed with voters. Americans are telling pollsters that their levels of interest in the upcoming election are at unprecedented highs — and according to one recent poll, they are already more excited about voting than they were on the eve of the 2016 and 2012 elections!”

In his article, “A Dem for All Seasons” at The New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky concludes, “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall focuses on whether “deepening animosity between Democrats and Republicans based on genuine differences over policy and ideology or is it a form of tribal warfare rooted in an atavistic us-versus-them mentality?” Edsall presents arguments for both alternatives, and quotes “an astute Democratic strategist,” who says there are more voters who “have a very negative opinion of just one party (87 percent) than identify with one of the parties (67 percent). So, negative partisanship explains the behavior of many more voters…negative partisans vote more consistently against the opposite party than partisans vote for their party.” Edsall adds that “The remaining “persuadables” — an estimated 13 percent of voters, with little or no partisan commitment — will play a central role in determining the outcome in 2020.”

Further, Edsall notes, “My source cited polling data from a “consortium of Democratic groups” showing that in 2016 the small fraction of the electorate made up of persuadables voted for Trump 41-36, but in 2018 they voted for Democratic House candidates 57-41. At the moment, he said, polling shows that these swing voters currently prefer a generic Democrat to Trump 54-28, with 19 percent undecided.” Edssall’s source adds that ““no one — including political commentators — has evidence-based answers to your question of what will move this group (or any other definition of ‘swing’ voters).”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    “Impeachment has taken on enormous importance to the political class because it is an issue of constitutional and historical import. But in the end it may not matter to voters very much at all.”

    If impeachment is enormously important to “the political class” but it may not matter to voters very much at all, then why is the political class out of touch with the voters and can that political class legitimately claim to represent them?


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