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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Mother Jones, David Corn has a perceptive take on why “The Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy Is Simple—and Risky.” As Corn writes, “Less is more. ..That’s the mantra for the House Democrats, as they take their impeachment inquiry into a new phase: public hearings. For weeks, the House committees leading this effort—the intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees—have narrowly focused on one matter: the Trump-Ukraine scandal and the tale of Donald Trump apparently abusing the office of the president to obtain political dirt that could influence the 2020 election. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that Democrats have previously raised as possible grounds for impeachment—Trump allegedly obstructing justice (per the Robert Mueller report), Trump regularly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump separating children from their parents at the border, and more—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team determined that their best bet was to zero in on one episode of wrongdoing and leave the rest alone. “It’s the KISS strategy,” one senior House Democratic staffer says. “Keep it simple, stupid.” And as one House Democrat puts it, the goal is a “medium-sized impeachment.” Nothing too elaborate, nothing too hard to follow. After the somewhat complicated Trump-Russia scandal fizzled politically, Pelosi and her crew want to base impeachment on a straightforward and comprehensible narrative. Avoid tangential plots and the need for timelines, flowcharts, and complex explanations. Don’t get hung up on the past and the 2016 election. Skip all the Russia stuff—and don’t mention Mueller ever again. Trump tried to extort a foreign government to screw with the upcoming election—and that’s impeachable enough…a medium-sized impeachment—one that ducks the totality of Trump’s misconduct—could provide the Republicans greater opportunity to fast-track a trial, quickly dismiss the entire mess, and offer what Trump will embrace as a clean bill of health. Still, if that’s the scenario that plays out, Trump will be stained—and perhaps so will some Republican senators who stick with him (depending on how the case is presented). Yet at this stage, there is no telling what the ramifications will be for the 2020 election. You can now game out it assorted ways—it helps Trump, it hurts Trump, it makes no difference. This election is likely to be shaken, rocked, and rolled by a variety of factors that no one, no matter how strong a sense of imagination they possess, can predict at this point.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reflects on the differences between the Nixon and Trump impeachments and the strategic implications: “Gallup recently contrasted its surveys on removing Trump from office with comparable polls about Nixon in August 1974. Gallup found that while 92 percent of Republicans rejected removing Trump last month, only 59 percent felt that way about Nixon…Other polls have found somewhat more Republican support for driving Trump from office, and it’s also true that by August 1974, the country had gone through more than a year of highly public Watergate inquiries…Nonetheless, no one can deny how much partisan polarization has deepened since Nixon. Moreover, with the 2020 election looming, Democrats have much less time than their forebears did 45 years ago. And they are operating in an information environment that is not conducive to sober reflection…Democrats hope that piling up evidence offered almost entirely by people with no political axes to grind will shift public opinion against Trump. Republicans hope to obscure the facts by arguing that there is no such thing as objective truth anymore because anyone who says anything critical of Trump must have a partisan motive…”

Malachi Barrett reports at mlive.com that “A new Democratic advertising campaign launched to win back rural Midwest voters highlights a Michigan woman who expressed embarrassment for supporting President Donald Trump…American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group and political action committee, dropped $3 million on commercials that began airing Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The ads, which feature first-person testimonials from former Trump supporters, as part of a larger effort to flip white, working-class voters in battleground states…The organization is aiming to cut into Trump’s margins in traditionally Republican parts of Michigan, according to a strategy memo shared with MLive…Trump won the state by a slim margin of 0.3%, less than 11,000 votes. American Bridge believes rural white voters could make the difference in 2020…The group doesn’t expect to win a majority of those voters, just enough to tip the scales. A smaller margin of victory among white working-class voters was critical to Democrats’ historic wins in the 2018 Congressional elections, American Bridge said in a statement.”

Here’s one of the ads from the campaign:

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides that Trump can hide his tax returns from congressional scrutiny, it looks like they will publicly revealed. As Alex Johnson reports at nbcnews: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump’s accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court…On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena…The decision means that unless Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can enforce its subpoena ordering the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to hand over any documents in its possession related to accounts of the Trump Organization dating to January 2009.” There is no word as yet regarding how long it will take for congress to get the returns, pending high court review.

“Priorities USA is focusing on Latinos early,” reports Laura Barron-Lopez at Politico. “The Democratic super PAC is launching a sustained digital effort to woo Latinos in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, according to details of the plan provided to POLITICO…This time they are starting before 2020 and in a state that is at the heart of President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The digital ads which will run on Facebook and YouTube, cover pocketbook issues that Florida Latinos care about, according to the super PAC. The group didn’t specify the amount of money being spent on the Latino outreach program…The digital program includes digital banners, audio and pre-roll ads. The program also includes promoting news articles across Facebook focused on the impact of Trump’s policies on Latinos in Florida…Priorities USA said the ads will be about rising health care costs, wages, and Trump’s racist rhetoric and immigration policies.”

At The Daily Princetonian, Zachary Shevin conducts an interview with Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Gillum shares the following insights about how Democrats can win in Florida in 2020: “If you’re serious about winning this state, we’ve got to make the investment now. It boggles the mind how I hear and see and read people saying that Florida is now lost for Democrats. We got closer in the race for governor than any Democrat had in 24 years — 0.4 percent difference, 30,000 votes, at eight-and-a-half million votes cast. How in the world do you conclude that the biggest swing state in the country, the one state that could deny Donald Trump the presidency, is a state you give up on? That doesn’t make sense…The truth is, is that Florida does a terrible job on the Democratic side organizing outside of major election cycles. Republicans, however, organize inside and outside of election cycles…So what our strategy … is that, you know, we want to invest early on in registration, or reengagement. And when I say reengagement, I mean people who were registered to vote in ’16 and did not show up at the polls — right —  nationally, six million people. In Florida, there are four million eligible, registered people in my state who we got to go out there and get registered, not to mention reengage.”

As for pivotal issues, Gillum said, “Well, climate change is a real deal in Florida, so that’s going to be important for voters in my state. I also believe that health care is going to be important for voters that are sick. Whether you have it or not, in the state of Florida, and frankly around the country, when your premiums are increasing year over year over year, where Republicans are attempting to usher in the ability for insurance companies to yet again deny you coverage based off of preexisting conditions … We need a candidate who is going to speak to what can be done, if they were to be elected President, to help alleviate the unfair burden that saddles far too many families who are terrified of getting sick.”

From “Medicare for All a Vote Loser in 2018 U.S. House Elections” by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “An analysis of the impact of Medicare for All on the 2018 House elections indicates that Democratic challengers and open seat candidates in competitive districts who endorsed a version of Medicare for All similar to that proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did significantly worse than those who did not. This negative effect, close to five points of margin after controlling for a variety of other factors, was clearly large enough to affect the outcomes of some House contests…It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    In a way Ukraine-gate consists of questioning the President’s Ukraine foreign policy based on the impressions and priorities of lower level officials. Trump was always clear that he didn’t see Ukraine as US foreign policy priority. This part of the impeachment is not legitimate.

    The other aspect of the inquiry is the quid pro quo. This part will only be seen as legitimate if US law unequivocally bans what Trump did. The problem is US laws regarding electoral, lobbying and foreign interference are riddled with loopholes and case law has only made them worse.

    What Trump did regarding Biden is only unethical in a scenario where the US President should never use foreign policy for domestic political considerations.

    Don’t we in retrospect see Obama’s failure to confront Russia openly about its attempts at interference as a mistake? Didn’t Obama not act because he thought he would be seen as tilting the scales in favor of HRC and against Trump?

    The question of the role of US foreign policy in protecting US democracy and pushing against corruption in and from foreign countries is not a matter of impeachment, but for Congress to determine clear policy.

    Reply

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