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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Matthew Yglesias reports at Vox, “Speaking on Meet The Press Sunday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden called for widespread invocation of the Defense Production Act to not only meet the need for ventilators but also to scale up production of “masks and gowns … and shields and all the things our first responders and doctors need.”…“Why are we waiting?” Biden asked, “We know they’re needed.”…The Defense Production Act would allow the federal government to essentially conscript America’s domestic manufacturing capacity into making more of these supplies…The Trump administration has thus far been reluctant to invoke the act, suggesting that to do so would create a Venezuela-like economic situation. In practice, however, it’s the administration’s inability to get the virus under control that’s creating an unprecedentedly rapid economic collapse, and anything that helps bolster the public health situation will almost certainly improve the economy as well.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point” at The Washington Post: “If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know…The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake…The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver explains that “blue states are hardly alone in what is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana — which went for Trump by 15 percentage points in 2016 — has a death rate about equal to that of Manhattan. And as terrifying as the hospital situation is in New York City, hospital capacity is also under strain in states such as Michigan and Georgia…Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing…Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Texas, where the number of reported cases increased by 297 percent…On average, states that voted for Trump saw a 119 percent increase in cases over this 3-day period, as compared to an 88 percent increase in states that voted for Hillary Clinton (plus the District of Columbia).”

One of the big questions being bandied about at this political moment: Why is Sen. Bernie Sanders not dropping out? Among the most frequent answers are: that his ego can’t let go of the limelight; that he’s pissed-off about Biden stealing the momentum and hoping for a sudden Biden train-wreck etc. These explainations are based on the ‘Sanders is just a selfish guy’ meme. Here’s a more balanced take: Sanders is smart enough to know that Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, but wants to seize the moment to promote an all-inclusive public health care system. At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza observes, “He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.” But dropping out now and announcing his endorsement of Biden would get buried by coronavirus news. His endorsement might actually help Biden more a little later, rather than sooner.

Could Sanders not dropping out now hurt Biden’s prospects for defeating Trump? Yes, if Sanders conducts a divisive, hard-hitting campaign attacking Biden. Sanders must know that he is not going to get the same level of media attention in the months ahead. The press knows it’s over and that the lack of any winner-take-all delegates states in 2020 makes Biden’s nomination a done deal, barring a total melt-down on his part. The hope is that Sanders doesn’t want to go down in history as the bitter guy who helped re-elect Trump. Unlike the drop-outs, however, Sanders has 918 delegates (Warren is 3rd with 82) and a much larger constituency than they did. Giving him more time to work through a process for endorsing the former Vice President seems reasonable. All indications suggest a heavy voter turnout in November. Whatever path Sanders choses in the weeks ahead, party unity in November should be his north star.

In her article, “What Do Progressives Do Now? Progressives are eager to use the coronavirus crisis to convince Joe Biden—and millions of other Americans—of the necessity of major reforms,” Elaine Godfrey writes at The Atlantic, “Sanders, who still hasn’t dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, has effectively converted his presidential campaign into a coronavirus-messaging apparatus, and he is holding regular broadcasts with other progressive lawmakers, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, to explain how the current crisis demonstrates the need for Medicare for All. “As we do everything possible to grapple with this crisis … it is also appropriate to ask ourselves how we got here and what this says about the financial and economic structure of our country,” Sanders said in a live-streamed video Wednesday night. “People are understanding that there is something wrong that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a human right.”

“Progressives will be carefully monitoring shifts in Biden’s policy positions to see whether their efforts are having an impact,” Godfrey continues. “Already, Biden has announced his support for Sanders’s plan to make public colleges free for some students, and he’s endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to fix America’s bankruptcy system. But it’s not enough, progressive leaders say. If he “is serious about attracting progressives and the Obama coalition—which included young people—he needs to articulate a bold policy agenda that meets the scale of the crisis people are experiencing right now,” Maurice Mitchell, the director of the Working Families Party, told me.”

Godfey argues further, “At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into lawwould provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.”

Mark Joseph Stern writes at slate.com: “We know that this cannot be our final bill,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared shortly before her chamber passed a $2 trillion stimulus package responding to the economic impact of COVID-19. She’s right: The measures passed so far are plainly insufficient to ward off an economic and humanitarian catastrophe. Pelosi has already laid out her requestsfor the next phase of legislation, which includes more funding for state governments and increased SNAP benefits. But her plan is missing something crucial: legal protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their DACA status in the coming weeks…These Dreamers are on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, and they are indispensable. Health care workers keep getting infected with the coronavirus, and hard-hit states fear they will run out of doctors and nurses to treat patients…At this perilous moment, stripping work permits from 27,000 health care workers would be catastrophic. It would jettison critical personnel from the American health care system at a time when it needs all hands on deck…If Congress wants to save as many lives as possible while propping up the economy, protecting Dreamers should be its first priority in future negotiations…Congress should not save Dreamers just because it’s good policy. Congress should save Dreamers because we need them to survive.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    “He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.”

    Yeah, except it isn’t his party. He would definitely like to make it his party, but he has spent the bulk of the primary race running against the party almost as much as against Trump. This has been his entire life history. He was given to running for the Democratic nomination for various offices in Vermont, then repudiating it after he had cleared any possible competition.


    Yeah. I’m going to go with the giant ego theory. It has the advantage of also explaining 2016.


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