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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From the assessment of upcoming Democratic presidential primaries by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “There are no signs things will get better for Sanders next week, when four more large states vote: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. Sanders has never shown any strength in Florida, and Biden should rout him there. Sanders lost Illinois narrowly and Ohio not-so-narrowly in 2016. Biden’s sweep of both Michigan and Missouri’s counties suggests we should expect something similar in their regional neighbors. Sanders carried much of downstate Illinois and also some of the Chicago collar counties in 2016. The results so far this year suggest he won’t replicate that. Sanders has done better out West, and he has also done well with Hispanic voters, which gives him a glimmer of hope in Arizona. But Arizona also has a lot of older voters and well-off suburbanites, high-turnout groups that have been flocking to Biden.”

Some quick takes from Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate: “The debate changed nothing, but at the end of the evening Joe Biden was sitting on the cusp of the Democratic nomination” (Lloyd Green)…”It’s hard not to wonder what the debate would be like if Warren were on the stage, since she came out with an infectious-disease plan in response to the coronavirus back in January”  (Amelia Thomson-Deveaux)…”This was by far the best debate because it involved just two candidates and they disagree on a lot. They represent the two dominant ways of thinking within in the Democratic Party. I wish this kind of debate had happened when the results of the primary weren’t basically already decided and many people will feel uncomfortable heading out to vote. (Perry Bacon, Jr.)…”Well the first 40 minutes were substantive and on point but now it’s like two old frenemies with coronavirus cabin fever arguing about decades-long misunderstandings and perceived personal slights” (Amanda Becker)…”This debate took a first step to bringing the Democratic party together, and it reminded the general electorate that competence is at hand. Especially when Biden names a female running mate, as he pledged” (Art Cullen).

Regarding the big news of the debate, front-runner Biden cemented a female running mate into the mix, and speculation is already in overdrive. On other occasions, Biden has mentioned as possible picks: Sen. Kamala Harris; former GA. State Rep. Stacy Abrams; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Sen. Maggie Hassan; and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Other frequently-mentioned possibilities include: Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Rep. Val. Demings;  Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto; and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; Biden has also said he would nominate an African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court at first opportunity.

Alexander Sammon explores “How to Win Concessions From Candidate Biden: The left—beginning with Sanders and Warren—should push him on both policy and personnel” at The American Prospect. Sammon observes, “You’d be hard-pressed to identify Biden’s agenda for the presidency. His policy-driven contributions during the many-months-long debate circuit were largely nonexistent. While his website features a sprawling mosaic of “bold ideas,” it’s tough to know how committed he is to any of them, given how infrequently he’s brought them up during his sporadic stump speeches, press scrums, and public appearances. The one thing we know for sure is his commitment to a return to much of Obama-era thinking, to a degree of political normalcy: the return of the “Obiden Bama” Democrat, as he calls it, perhaps with more spending on social programs… He’s nothing if not malleable. As Sanders again spearheads the fight for the platform, for which the first real battle will happen Sunday night on the debate stage, it’s certainly worth pushing for personnel concessions as well…Biden desperately needs the grassroots and youth support of the party’s progressive wing if he wants any hope of defeating Trump, and those groups should push for major influence over the Biden cabinet— and Biden policy—when the moment for horse-trading arrives.”

Also at The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson’s “Whither (Not Wither) the Post-Bernie Left” includes this insight: “Should Biden be elected, it’s not likely that he will come to power with his own mass grassroots organization, as Barack Obama did only to let it decay and disappear. What organization there will be, if the left—and I mean an expanded left, including such groups as Indivisible and a number of unions—sticks together, will be a mobilized left wing of the Democratic Party. Such a coalition can serve to block the return of Wall Street to the kind of power it exercised in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as my colleague Bob Kuttner outlines in an article the Prospect posted today. But it can also be a source of left pressure on Biden policy, as Deepak Bhargava suggests in an article in The Nation. After all, the landmark advances of the New Deal were in many ways a response to worker uprisings, and those of the Great Society a response to the civil rights movement. That, of course, requires this generation’s left to view a Biden presidency as an arena of struggle where victories will be possible, not the unalterable enemy that some on the left may regard it. The labor left backed Franklin Roosevelt when he enacted the reforms they supported, as the civil rights movement backed Lyndon Johnson when he did the same.”

Despite varied claims about ‘Bernie Bros’ voting for Trump, the most realistic estimate is that about “12 percent of people who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries voted for President Trump in the general election. That is according to the data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — a massive election survey of around 50,000 people.” Some reasons to believe it will be a much smaller figure in 2020 include: 1. Those 2016 Bernie to Trump voters couldn’t know how bad Trump would be; 2. Biden may be less objectionable to many voters than was Hillary Clinton; 3. Retirement investments may not recover much by November; 4. Trump’s firing of the CDC’s pandemic response team last year looks increasingly like a national security disaster.

Is postponing elections because of the pandemic justified? That’s what they are doing in Georgia, as Kelly Mena and Diane Gallagher report at CNN Politics: “Georgia elections officials will postpone the March 24 presidential primary to May 19 because of the coronavirus, becoming the second state in the nation to delay a vote in the race for the White House due to the pandemic, according to Walter Jones, a spokesman with the Secretary of State’s office.” Yes, a lot of poll workers are elderly and having people packed together in long lines is even a worse idea in a pandemic. But you can’t blame Georgia Democrats for being a bit suspicious that Georgia’s Republican leaders don’t want people voting when they are pissed off about mismanagement of a public health emergency. However, the postponement could also mean more pro-Democratic voters will cast ballots on May 19.

Charlie Cook has some sobering math for Democrats in a current column at The Cook Political Report: “The Cook Political Report on Monday released its updated Electoral College Ratings, with six states in the Toss Up column: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the three Frost Belt states that effectively determined the 2016 election; but also three Sun Belt states of Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. With Democrats having 232 electoral votes either Solidly, Likely, or Leaning in their direction, their candidate needs 38 of the 102 electoral votes in the Toss Up column, while Trump, with 204 electoral votes in his column, needs to win 66 out of that same 102.”

All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States” by Meaghan Winter explains how Democrats have “ceded control of state governments to the GOP, allowing them to rig our political system and undermine democracy itself. After the 2016 election, Republicans had their largest majority in the states since 1928, controlling legislative chambers in thirty-two states and governor offices in thirty-three. They also held both chambers of Congress and the presidency despite losing the popular vote.” Winter shows how Democrats and progressives “have spent the past several decades betting it all on the very risky and increasingly foolhardy strategy of abandoning the states to focus on federal races…For the American public, the fallout has been catastrophic…Republican lawmakers have diminished employee protections and healthcare access and thwarted action on climate change. Voting rights are being dismantled, and even the mildest gun safety measures are being blocked.” It has resulted in extreme abortion bans, undermining gun control to gutting unions,.” The New York Review of Books  credits Winter’s book “with remarkable clarity and tenacity.”

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    “Despite varied claims about ‘Bernie Bros’ voting for Trump, the most realistic estimate is that about “12 percent of people who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries voted for President Trump in the general election. That is according to the data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — a massive election survey of around 50,000 people.” Some reasons to believe it will be a much smaller figure in 2020 include: 1. Those 2016 Bernie to Trump voters couldn’t know how bad Trump would be; 2. Biden may be less objectionable to many voters than was Hillary Clinton; ”

    And about the same number, for a total of around 25%, went for Jill Stein or stayed home.

    The sad fact is that most of those voter represent people who view the Democratic as being as much their enemy as Trump. I doubt that Hilary hatred was as much a factor as simply that this fraction of Bernie voters won’t vote for anyone else. They want a revolution now, or they’re going to make it worse until they get their revolution.

    I guess we’ll see when the votes come in. But what we know so far, especially from Sanders’ debate performance, is that he intends to go down doing as much damage as possible to the party, just like 2016. He’s a sanctimonious prima donna.

    Reply
    • Victor on

      You, along with way too many partisan Democrats, have developed an anti-Bernie obsession that you seem to project to the left.

      If Bernie is trying to do damage to the Democratic party, then at least he has an ideological reason. What was the motivation for all the Hillary voters who failed to support Obama?

      Please let it go. There are some Bernie voters who will not back the party no matter what, the vast majority will back it no matter what, but the persuasion needed to convince fence sitters will not work via insults and impugning motivation.

      Reply
  2. Martin Lawford on

    Thank you, J.P. Green, for an incisive list of articles. The one I like best is the reference to Meagan Winter’s book. If she is correct, then Howard Dean was right all along: We need a fifty-state strategy.

    Reply

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