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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class: Experts predict the outbreak will lead to a rise in populism. But will workers turn their rage toward corporate CEOs, or middle-class “elites”?” by Olga Khazan at The Atlantic: “When the dust settles, there’s of course a chance that low-income workers might end up just as powerless as they were before. But history offers a precedent for plagues being, perversely, good for workers. Collective anger at low wages and poor working protections can produce lasting social change, and people tend to be more supportive of government benefits during periods of high unemployment…The U.S. has long been the sole holdout among rich nations when it comes to paid sick leave and other job protections. Now that some workers are getting these benefits for the coronavirus, they might be hard for businesses to claw back. If your boss let you stay home with pay when you had COVID-19, is he really going to make you come in when you have the flu? “Is this going to be an inflection point where Americans begin to realize that we need government, we need each other, we need social solidarity, we are not all cowboys, who knew?” said Joan Williams, a law professor at UC Hastings and the author of White Working Class.”

Common sense suggests that American workers will become more concerned about job safety, or the lack of it and other worker protections. As Khazan continues, “A few months from now, the path we take will also depend on whether voters ultimately blame Trump for the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse, and on whether Democrats are able to create a coherent narrative out of the calls for better worker protections. And in a year, it will depend on how severe the death toll turns out to be among service workers, and how well they’re able to organize in response. But if past epidemics are a guide, the workers may win out in the end.” However, Khazan adds, “Finally, organized labor has been gutted in recent decades, making any sustained workers’-rights movement seem like a long shot.” Yet, “Such a change would be a return to a 1950s-style view of the working class, in which low-wage jobs conferred a sense of dignity. “You viewed yourself as the backbone, the heart and soul of America,” Gest said. No one is more essential than the person bringing you food at the end of a long, frightening week.”

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorses a presidential candidate, she doesn’t just make a statement; she makes an impressive video ad. Other former Democratic presidential candidates should do likewise.

At Politico, David Cohen reports that a “Majority fear coronavirus restrictions will be lifted too soon,” andhe notes, “Almost 60 percent of American voters are worried that lifting restrictions on public behavior too soon will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths…According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, 58 percent of registered voters expressed concern about a loosening of restrictions, compared with 32 percent who worried that the restrictions would stay in place for too long. Three percent said they were concerned about both scenarios…While a clear majority of Democrats (77 percent) and independents (57 percent) are more worried about the coronavirus, Republicans are very much divided on the issue — with 48 percent expressing more concern about the economy and 39 percent more worried about the pandemic…Those polled said they favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent. And 45 percent of those polled said they thought Trump has not handled the pandemic crisis well — and is still not doing so.”

Cohen adds, “More than two-thirds of those polled (69 percent) said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, followed by their state’s governor (66 percent), Dr. Anthony Fauci (60 percent), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (46 percent), Trump (36 percent), Vice President Mike Pence (35 percent) and Biden (26 percent)…A total of 52 percent said they distrusted what Trump has to say on the subject, followed by Pence (37 percent) and Biden (29 percent). A mere 8 percent said they did not trust Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

“In a national Quinnipiac University survey released last week, just 37 percent of adults living in cities and 44 percent of those in suburbs said they approved of Trump’s management of the outbreak. By stark contrast, 63 percent of those in rural areas said they approved,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “In the latest tracking polling conducted by the Democratic firms GBAO and the Global Strategy Group, a majority of Americans in all three regions said Trump failed to take the threat seriously enough at the outset of the pandemic. But the numbers were significantly higher in urban and suburban areas, where almost two-thirds of respondents said he acted too slowly…Other danger signs are sprouting for Trump in big urban centers. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was the largest county in America that Trump won in 2016. But a new poll, released this week by the Republican firm OH Predictive Insights, found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden there by 13 percentage points. The survey also found Biden leading by nine points statewide, even though Democrats haven’t won Arizona in a presidential race since 1996. These results track with Maricopa’s movement away from the GOP in 2018, when Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema won the ordinarily Republican-leaning county by about four points.”

Also at The Atlantic, Kevin Townsend quotes Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from her interview by Edward Isaac-Dovere. As Ifill urged, “We need more early voting so that you don’t have lines, because you have a longer period of early voting. You do need to have drop-off absentee stations. You do need to expand the time for absentee ballots to be returned to the Board of Elections. We need all of this to deal with the challenges of this pandemic. There are ways to manage this. And I think that’s the menu we’re all sitting with right now and are prepared to lean in to, to ensure that in November we don’t have an election that causes people to risk their lives, but we also have an election that we don’t have to be ashamed of, that everyone who is a citizen who wants to participate can participate on November 3…it was shameful and a disgrace that we consigned people to have to choose between their health and their right as citizens to participate and vote. No question. But I also am compelled to see the extraordinary, powerful nobility of those people standing—some of them in wheelchairs—staggered and separated from each other as best they could by six feet, for hours on end, determined to participate in the political process.”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump’s war on pragmatism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “What pragmatists know is that railing against formal distancing rules does nothing to solve the underlying problem. As several economist colleagues I contacted noted, the economy will not fully revive until Americans are given good reason to put aside their fears of infection. Yelling at governors won’t get us there….“Even if the government-imposed social distancing rules are relaxed to encourage economic activity, risk-averse Americans will persist in social distancing, and that behavior, too, will restrain the hoped-for economic rebound,” Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, wrote me…Those who shout for opening the economy in the name of freedom don’t think much about the freedom of workers to protect themselves from a potentially deadly disease. And employers do not want to find themselves facing legal liabilities for infected employees….If the economy is substantially reopened without adequate testing, said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, the most vulnerable would include “low-wage workers, women, people of color, immigrants, and the elderly.” They are “concentrated in the riskiest jobs, with the least financial cushion, and the least likely to have employer-provided benefits or protections,” she said…“Give me liberty or give me death” is a fine rallying cry in a war against freedom’s enemies. It’s is a perilous guide to policy during a pandemic. Pragmatists may be short on stirring slogans. But when the choices are hard and the problems are daunting, they’re the ones we should want in charge.”

“The battle for the Senate majority is tightening as the coronavirus threatens to plunge the economy into a severe recession and as President Trump’s handling of the crisis comes under increased scrutiny,” Alexander Bolton reports at The Hill. “With Election Day just more than six months away, some Senate Democratic candidates are starting to outraise vulnerable Republican incumbents in states where Trump’s approval rating has taken a hit…Senate Republicans, who control 53 seats, are still the favorite to retain control of the chamber, but Democrats are narrowing the gap…The Cook Political Report, another nonpartisan forecasting group, says “the chances of Democrats taking back the Senate are rising and now close to 50-50 odds” with “several plausible paths” for Democrats to win a majority…Democratic strategists say fundraising is only part of the story and point to record voter turnout in Democratic presidential primary contests before the pandemic struck as evidence of high party enthusiasm heading into the general election.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Democrats are capitulating on austerity.

    Even during this crisis they fail in communicating that government is as important as the private sector.

    23 million government jobs

    Local schools

    Healthcare programs



    All will be at risk.

    The bailout to state and local governments is less than 7% of their spending.

    This doesn’t even cover a month of spending.

    If progressives don’t speak up now, what’s the point of even having them in office?

    I’ve seen a change in rhetoric in the libertarian astroturf networks that are used to control the Republican party.

    All they seem to care about now is “opening” the economy and refocusing on drowning the government in the bathtub.

    With Trump’s numbers down they may well not care to sacrifice him if they can use this crisis to turn it into an even worse repeat of austerity than the Great Recession. After all they have never agreed with Trump on much.

    In any case they are always thinking long term. Their push to end any aid for anything other than small businesses seems clear already.

    If Pelosi and Schumer don’t get significant aid to the states now it may not happen. One does have to wonder if they actually agree with this agenda.

    It doesn’t seem like progressive networks are fully mobilizing to pressure our Senators and Representatives.

    This is the kind of stuff that make poor people think that politics isn’t worth the time investment.

    Of course the press is complicit in its coverage of the astroturf libertarian protests.

    But without a countervailing pressure from the left that is how they got to prevail in the Great Recession.

    If this isn’t a moment for Bernie and AOC to ask Biden to make sure that Democrats support the idea of government or at least reject austerity I don’t know what the point of organizing to elect people is.

    Are we going to elect people to administer austerity and plead at the very margins of what could be improved?

    The previous “stimulus” package was actually pretty good and Pelosi seems to think she can pull off an extension. I don’t see libertarians going along with a further extension and not starting to push for cuts all across the board.

    In any case I’m more worried about who wins the messaging/frameworking battle.

    The right has been effective at turning the whole discussion about small businesses being the only thing that matters.

    Large corporates can rely on the Fed and don’t need as much congressional intervention. So the only people left hanging are public sector workers and the people who rely on state and local services and welfare programs.


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