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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Right-wing media is at full-bore today, blasting Trump’s pending impeachment with a host of increasingly hysterical messages du jour, none of which is likely to convince many swing voters. But Republicans are struggling to make anything resembling a credible legal case against impeachment, and Caroline Kelly explains why in her article, “More than 500 legal scholars sign letter saying Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct‘” at CNN Politics: “More than 500 legal scholars signed on to a letter published Friday accusing President Donald Trump of having “engaged in impeachable conduct” in his dealings in Ukraine…”There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress,” they wrote. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”..The letter comes after four other legal scholars testified at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday, with three of them making the case for impeaching Trump…They pointed to treason and bribery as the two potential charges prompting impeachment “because they include conduct undertaken not in the ‘faithful execution’ of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason)…Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable,” the scholars wrote. “Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for.”

In “How Nancy Pelosi Is Dictating the Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy,” John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker: “She could have scheduled the announcement of an agreement on the trade deal for tomorrow or next week. But, by holding it right after the unveiling of articles of impeachment, she demonstrated that, even as she and her colleagues are trying to drive Trump out of office, they are also focussing on bread-and-butter matters, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, guaranteeing paid leave for federal workers, and enshrining labor protections in trade agreements. Her message is that, in order to make progress in these areas, House Democrats are even willing to coöperate with a President whom they are impeaching…Pelosi has insisted on keeping the impeachment inquiry narrowly focussed on Ukraine, probably because she thinks returning to the Russia investigation would play poorly in swing districts. With the support of Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, she has got her way…If Pelosi had believed that there was a realistic chance of removing Trump from office, she might have endorsed a broader and lengthier impeachment process.”

Regarding Pelosi’s fast-paced impeachment strategy, Andrew Prokop notes at Vox, “Due to the supermajority requirement for removal, at least 20 Republicans would have to break ranks to oust Trump. They knew that was never remotely likely and that, as a result, the impeachment quest would ultimately end in failure…Impeachment supporters will cry foul here. They will say that only if impeachment was done differently — perhaps with more months of hearings, perhaps by exploring topics other than Ukraine, perhaps with more effective Democratic leadership — it could have succeeded…Perhaps. But the way things have played out so far is quite close to what Pelosi would have predicted. Voters’ opinions about Trump have remained remarkably entrenched, as they have for the past two years. And congressional Republicans haven’t abandoned him, which means he’s here to stay…The impeachment investigation wasn’t a sham — far from it. It surfaced new information and helped nail down the facts of an apparent abuse of power by the president of the United States. It will likely result in a historic reprimand of Trump’s conduct as he becomes the third president ever to be impeached. But those who had greater expectations will probably end up disappointed.”

At The Atlantic, however, Elaine Godfrey explains why “The Activist Left Feels Betrayed by the House Impeachment Process“: “But as the House moves closer to approving two articles of impeachment against him—both concerning the president’s interactions with Ukraine—progressive activists and organizers have felt deflated instead. They had been advocating for Democrats to levy a much broader set of charges to paint a thorough portrait of the president’s wrongdoing, not the discrete list the House Judiciary Committee revealed on Tuesday. Making matters worse, they told me, House Democratic leaders’ near-simultaneous announcement of their support for Trump’s new trade deal diluted the significance of the moment, giving Trump and the Republicans a key win on a day that should have been focused entirely on Democrats’ denunciation of the president…Their grievances not only reflect the ideological fissures within today’s Democratic Party, but they may also foreshadow arguments to come next year as Democrats attempt to hang onto their House majority and win back the Senate and the White House. The disagreement over scope and timing is yet another sign that Democrats aren’t even close to a consensus on which strategy is best for beating Republicans in 2020…“They are catering to scared members of their caucus who think they won [in 2018] by [toeing] a middle ground, when they actually won due to anti-Trump outrage,” argued Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political-action committee.”

Most Democrats would say at this point, thanks, but they don’t need another presidential candidate. Nonetheless, it’s fun when a well-known Republican, David Gergen co-authors, with James Pitch an article at CNN Opinion entitled, “If Nancy Pelosi ran for president, she’d beat Trump.” As Gergen, who served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations (Clinton’s also), and Pitch argue that Pelosi “is enjoying not only a last laugh but also a major comeback—mostly because she has been more successful than any other Democrat at outmaneuvering and often outfoxing President Trump…With the nation’s attention riveted on her as she has guided the impeachment inquiry, she has been at her absolute best—keeping an ideologically diverse and at times unruly caucus largely satisfied while not allowing impeachment fervor to overcome her governing or judgment…But what Pelosi has done outside the realm of impeachment also deserves acknowledgment. Under her leadership, the Democrat-controlled House has passed a number of significant bills—ones that would protect voting rights, take needed action on climate change, address gun violence and help achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans…Meanwhile, with the trade deal—the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—Democrats appear to have gotten most of what they wanted, and Pelosi has given her moderates something to sell back home (and she may offer another victory for Democrats with the prescription drug bill this week)…By moving so quickly with impeachment, she’s making it clear that a President should be held accountable and that elections must be transparent and fair, while also guaranteeing that in the runup to next November, Democrats have time to focus on key issues, such as health care costs. (Please see a shocking story in The Washington Post showing that the percentage of Americans who cannot afford medical care has doubled in the past three decades.) Americans may remain unsure who should be the next President. But it’s clear Democrats already have their best possible choice for Speaker of the House.”

At npr.org, Julie Rovner addresses the question, “Which Health Care Strategy Has The Edge Among Democrats And Swing Voters?,” and writes, “The latest Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in late November found 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they want to hear the candidates discuss health care. That’s twice the total for the next top issue, climate change, and four times the total for immigration, the No. 3 issue…On the one hand, Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents in the KFF poll say when it comes to health care, the candidate they trust most is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who has been pushing a Medicare for All plan since at least 1993)…Yet those same people say they prefer a public option (of the sort supported by former Vice President Joe Biden) to Sanders’ Medicare for All plan…That voter preference for the public option strategy was borne out in a separate Quinnipiac poll released last week, in which 36% of respondents say Medicare for All is a good idea while 52% say it is a bad idea. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from September found similar results: 67% of respondents said they would support allowing people younger than 65 to “buy their health coverage through the Medicare program,” while only 41% favored “adopting Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system in which private health insurance would be eliminated…The key to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, of course, is threading the political needle in a way that keeps the enthusiasm of the Democrats’ Medicare for All base, while not scaring away voters in swing areas who fear such major changes.”

Jennifer Bendery’s “Georgia Democrats Haven’t Won A Senate Seat In 19 Years. Two Women Say They Can.” at HuffPo offers some insight into Democratic chances for picking up Republican David Perdue’s Senate in the Peach State. Noting that “national groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List are still watching to see if it’s worth investing in a real fight in Georgia, where Democrats have teetered on the edge of winning a statewide election for years but fallen just short every time,” Bendery cites “a mix of factors give the party an edge: the state’s rapidly changing demographics around Atlanta, where the population is diversifying and threatening the GOP’s grip on power; the “Stacey Abrams phenomenon,” as Tomlinson put it, meaning Democratic voters are still fired up after she nearly won last year’s governor’s race; and the fact that both Senate seats are open in 2020 and neither will be held by a longtime Republican anymore.” However, ““Georgia has been like the Lucy’s football of American politics,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “Time and time and time again, Democrats have been getting 46, 47, 49%, going back to 2000 in Senate races and governor’s race.,,Demographically, it does look like any year now it could be the time when a Democrat wins.”

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT opinion article “Trump Has a Gift for Tearing Us Apart: There are a lot of different ways to build walls” provides an indepth, data-rich analysis of his divide and conquer strategy. Edsall focuses on what several major studies indicate about public attitudes toward immigration and Trump’s unprecedented ability to excite irrational fears of immigrants. Edsall explains, “Donald Trump has done everything within his power to activate racial and ethnic animosity in this country. His main targets are immigrants, who are often greeted with rank hatred. But it’s a mistake to think that Trump started all this, even as he’s taking full advantage of the opportunities animosity has unleashed. He’s riding a wave…Trump’s genius in 2016 lay in his willingness — indeed, his eagerness — to openly and aggressively unleash the forces of racial and ethnic hostility that Republican elites had quietly capitalized upon for decades. Trump will be a formidable candidate next year because he is prepared to look under the rocks of the American belief system and see the snakes and vermin that have camped there in the dark.”

For the best one-graph summary of the last couple of political weeks, I’d go with Esquire’s Charles Pierce, who explains: “Nothing was more tiresome in this week’s House Judiciary Committee slanging than the baseless charge by the Republican minority that the impeachment inquiry is taking up so much of the House’s attention that the Republican minority doesn’t have the time to pretend to care about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or the cost of prescription drugs. This was all my bollocks, of course. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out, while chasing the president*’s connections to the Ukrainian shakedown, the House has passed some 400 bills, many of them on a bipartisan basis, and the majority of them have died in the Senate because Mitch McConnell has been too busy putting unqualified Christopaths on the federal bench, and because McConnell just decided one day to be a megalomaniac with his thumb on history’s scale.”

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