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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

A choice paragraph from “Kamala Harris Makes History, Many Times Over: The bravery and radicalism of Joe Biden’s choice will become apparent over time” by Joan Walsh at The Nation: “Aimee Allison of She The People, an organization advancing women of color who nonetheless consistently praised Warren’s outreach to Black women and her grasp of the most essential issues, was thrilled: “Generations of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Muslim, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women have fought to get us to this moment,” she told me. Harris’s selection “is the direct result of the tireless work of women-of-color activists, strategists, and visionaries. The establishment couldn’t imagine that this was possible, so we had to make it a reality.” Allison believes winning back the House in 2018 and winning so many state legislative seats throughout the Trump era “showed that our organizing could generate high women of color voter turnout…. We can lead the charge in the states against voter suppression. It’s a reimagining of American politics.”

Michael Tomasky’s review of the Democratic ticket roll-out at The Daily Beast: “Well—she was great…Kamala Harris has swagger. That’s going to drive right-wing men nuts. They’re just not going to know what to do about that. She was so confident in her first remarks as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate. The delivery, the timing. The body language: She bounced from foot to foot, raised her index finger every couple minutes, looked this way, looked that way, smiled here, furrowed her brow there. She was mesmerizing to watch…And the words—this was a really well-written speech. Not long—barely 20 minutes, if that. But it flowed seamlessly from this section to that. There were five sections in all: first, a little intro section sounding the basic themes about this historical moment of pandemic and economic collapse and a moment of reckoning about systemic racism; second, some lovely stuff that was new to me about her friendship with Beau (“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day, sometimes several times a day, working together” to help underwater families keep their homes) and a nice little tribute to the way Joe cared for his boys after his wife and daughter died; third, an autobiographical section with some very nice stuff about her husband and kids and her parents, which will drive the wingnuts crazy because her parents met marching for civil rights and took baby Kamala on some protest marches; fourth, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence, which was brutal; and fifth, the Biden-Harris agenda—an energy revolution, health care, choice, voting rights, the economy.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in “Kamala Harris’s Nomination Is a Turning Point for Democrats” at The Atlantic; “By selecting Harris, Biden has positioned the Democratic Party for a profound generational and demographic transition, and he’s addressed the fundamental incongruity of his candidacy: the inherent strain of a nearly 78-year-old white man leading a political coalition that relies on big margins among young voters, people of color, and women…Biden represents the Democratic Party of his post–World War II coming-of-age: a coalition centered on blue-collar white people who worked with their hands, mostly in smaller industrial cities such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born. From almost every angle, Harris embodies the Democratic Party of the 21st century: a biracial child of immigrants (who is herself in an interracial marriage) who rose to political prominence from a base in San Francisco, a diverse, globalized hub of the emerging information economy…Harris makes the concept of Biden as a bridge more concrete—and potentially more attractive to younger nonwhite voters displaying lagging enthusiasm for him—by embodying the other side of that span: a party that potentially makes more room at the table for people who look like her. “I think Kamala Harris has the potential to activate a voter that otherwise has not seen themself reflected in the Democratic Party,” says Terrance Woodbury, an African-American Democratic consultant who studies younger voters.”

Brownstein continues, “This ticket always seemed to some observers (myself included) the most logical choice for Democrats in their fight against Trump. That’s because the pairing reflects the party’s promising but tenuous position as demographic shifts inexorably transform the electorate. By any measure, Harris symbolizes a Democratic future rooted in groups and places that are growing as a share of society: the well-educated and diverse voters centered in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. A massive recent compilation of survey research by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that the non-college-educated white voters Biden grew up around now constitute only about three in 10 self-identified Democrats, while white voters with a four-year college degree or more constitute nearly as many. People of color represent the plurality, at about 40 percent of Democrats.”

“In 2016, just 60 percent of eligible African American voters turned out,” Brownstein writes, “down from 67 percent in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. Kasim Reed, the African American former mayor of Atlanta, told me last night he is confident that Harris’s position—combined with antipathy toward Trump and Biden’s own connections with older Black voters—will ensure a dramatic rebound in Black participation…Stanley B. Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster, told me that overall, he believes Harris will boost Biden. “I think this will be viewed as real, historic, and likely to be helpful to him in many ways,” Greenberg said. “It will look like a generational change, like someone who is in touch with the country, who can prosecute the case against the administration and against [Mike] Pence” during the vice-presidential debate this fall…Biden’s inner circle has tilted heavily toward older white men, but by choosing Harris, he’s taken one significant step toward acknowledging his need to open more doors to younger and more racially diverse leaders…But whether Biden wins or loses in November, her nomination may be remembered as a moment when the pinnacle of Democratic Party leadership came to more closely resemble the base of voters that elects it to power. Even as the GOP at every level remains dominated by white men—starting with Trump and Pence—the Democrats haven’t nominated a presidential ticket of two white men since 2004. It’s difficult to imagine when they ever will again.”

In “The Politics We Don’t See Matter as Much as Those We Do,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Some of the most important developments in politics do not happen every election cycle, but every ten years, when politicians scrap the old battleground map and struggle to replace it with a new one more favorable to their interests…Steven Hill, a former fellow at New America, described how this works in his still pertinent 2003 book “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.”…“Beginning in early 2001, a great tragedy occurred in American politics,” Hill wrote. As a result of that tragedy, “most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them” as “hallowed notions such as ‘no taxation without representation’ and ‘one person, one vote’ have been drained of their vitality, reduced to empty slogans.”…Hill was referring to “the process of redistricting” that he argued was legalized “theft” engaged in by “the two major political parties, their incumbents, and their consultants,” which Hill said was “part of the everyday give-and-take (mostly take) of America’s winner-take-all politics.”

Edsall explains that both parties have abused the redistricting process, and then writes: “In addition to creating wasted votes — thus undermining a key principle of democracy — an additional consequence of gerrymandering is what Nicholas Stephanopoulos of Harvard Law School calls “representational distortion”: the adoption of policies that do not have majority support in the electorate…Stephanopoulos, the author of the 2018 paper “The Causes and Consequences of Gerrymandering,” described “one glaring example,” in an email: Democrats got more votes than Republicans in the 2012 and 2018 Wisconsin state legislative elections. So in a world without gerrymandering, Democrats would have been able to block all kinds of conservative policies between 2012 and 2014, including environmental deregulation, tax cuts, abortion restrictions, gun deregulation, etc…Instead, Republican majorities in both branches of the Wisconsin legislature enacted all of those policies, as well as a package of anti-union measures…In the 2018 election, Democrats won 53 percent of all votes cast in the Wisconsin State Assembly contests, but won 36 percent of the State Assembly seats.”

“Republicans currently have trifectas in 21 states, Edsall notes, “Democrats in 15 — the remaining states have divided government. Fourteen states, including California, Ohio and Michigan, have shifted control over redistricting from the state legislature to an independent commission. Eleven others use independent commissions either to advise legislatures or to step in when no agreement can be reached. Republicans control both branches of the legislature in 29 states to the Democrats 19, with the only split in Minnesota. (Nebraska’s state government is unicameral.)…Fredrick Cornelius Harris, a professor of political science and director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia, warned that current developments — the likely census undercount of minorities and the poor and the Trump administration’s discouragement of immigrants from filling out census forms, together with the Covid-19 pandemic — will weaken the political leverage of minorities post-2021 redistricting…Democrats may have the wind at their backs this year, but the roadblocks Republicans have constructed over the course of the past decade are quite likely to prove insurmountable, for quite some time, no matter which party takes the White House, no matter how meaningless voters find the ballots they cast and no matter how many American voters are deprived of a voice.”

Here’s a headline you didn’t expect a few months ago: “The Republican Senate nightmare is coming true” at CNN Politics. In the article, Chris Cillizza Writes, “It’s very hard to overestimate how much of a sea change it would be for Democrats to not only capture the White House, but the Senate in November. If that came to pass, Democrats would have full control of the executive and legislative branches for the first time since 2009-2011, in the first term of President Barack Obama…And as President Donald Trump and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) have shown with their bevy of confirmed federal judges — including two Supreme Court seats — controlling the White House and the Senate allows the party in charge to make potentially generational changes…If this nightmare scenario for Republicans comes to pass, it is likely to stoke the already bubbling conversation about what a post-Trump GOP could and should look like. Unfortunately for Republicans, that conversation could well take place as their party is effectively sidelined in terms of power in Washington.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Michael Fogelberg on

    Hi- Can you do an overview of issues/concerns about Trumps response to defeat at the polls, the possibility and methods that Trump and the Rs might manipulate/steal the election and how the response might play out? There have been numerous articles and outlines of scenarios but they are scattered. It would be very useful/helpful to have a compilation to refer to. Thanks for all the great work!
    Mike Fogelberg


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