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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The New Yorker editor David Remnick shares his assessment of the Democratic Convention’s first three nights: “The set-piece speeches of this Convention have largely been effective. Sanders, who came in second in 2020, as he did in 2016, was at once generous to Biden but true to his insistence on foundational change. (There were disappointments: Al Gore on climate change would have been more relevant and welcome than Bill Clinton’s discourse on Oval Office comportment.) Many of the produced-for-TV-and-social-media video segments have also hit the mark, including Tuesday’s roll call with its visions of palm trees, mountain ranges, and fried calamari; the heart-tugging nomination of Biden by a Times security guard; the heroic story of Ady Barkan, a thirty-six-year-old lawyer who suffers from A.L.S. and became nationally recognized for his campaigning for Medicare for All. Those pieces and others largely felt genuine and stood in contrast to the distinctly sour and vindictive opponent they sought to upend.”

Among the “Hits and Misses from Day 3 of the Democratic Convention” according to Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics: “Barack Obama: Yes, the former president is an incredibly talented orator. But we’ve long known that. What mattered most about Obama’s speech on Wednesday was that he did what lots of Democrats have been begging him to do for the last three-ish years: He delivered a stunning takedown of the man who followed him into the White House. Obama said that Trump simply does not take the job “seriously.” He said that Trump uses the government’s vast powers in a purely “transactional way.” And most powerfully, he said this: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t, and the consequences of that failure are severe.” Consider what Obama is saying there: As someone who did the job — for eight years — he not only believes Trump cannot rise to the demands of the presidency, but also that there are very real effects of Trump’s deficiency. “This isn’t just the sharpest criticism Obama has made of Trump,” tweeted Politico’s Tim Alberta. “This is the sharpest criticism a former president has *ever made* of a sitting president.”

Former President Obama’s speech:

At Vox, Dylan Matthews comments on one of the “winners” of night three of the convention, Sen. Elizabeth Warren who expalined why child care is more than just a checklist item to be mentioned in this political year: “Warren focused on a place of deep continuity with Biden: child care, where Biden has proposed a massive system of subsidies that bears a strong resemblance to Warren’s plan. Both would cap child care expenses at 7 percent of income for most Americans…Simply pulling out child care, as important as the issue is, would have risked making the speech seem overly niche. But Warren connected it to the broader coronavirus pandemic and the problem of many schools being unable to safely open for the 2020-’21 school year — she delivered the speech from an early childhood education center. Child care “is just one plan,” she concludes. “It gives you an idea of how we get the country working for everyone.”

Regarding one of the largest constituencies that has been only lightly-showcased at the Democratic convention, Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic: “Surveys released since August 11 by Monmouth University, CNN, NBC/The Wall Street Journal, and ABC/The Washington Post all found Trump attracting from 57 to 60 percent of white voters without a college education. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey put his number slightly lower at 55 percent, while the most recent Pew Research Center poll put him higher, at 64 percent. Trump’s margin over Biden on these measures ranges from just more than 20 percentage points to about 30 points…That’s not as formidable as Trump’s advantage in 2016, when various data sources measuring voting behavior generally put his lead among non-college-educated white voters even higher. And polls in the Rust Belt battleground states, such as the latest Marquette University Law School survey, show Biden performing better among those voters there than he has nationally. Trump’s small overall decline, especially in key battlegrounds, might be enough to deny him a second term by flipping back the three “blue wall” states he won narrowly last time: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”

Brownstein adds: “But Trump’s ability to hold on to about three-fifths of non-college-educated white voters nonetheless testifies to the power of the cultural and racial attitudes that bond them to him. Even non-college-educated white women—though clearly less supportive now than in 2016—still give Trump a clear majority of their votes in all of the recent national surveys for which those data were available. (Biden leads among those women in Wisconsin, the Marquette poll found.) In the South, Trump continues to amass towering margins among white voters without a college degree: He’s at 70 percent or more among them in recent polls in North Carolina and Georgia, and nearly that high in Texas. Polls likewise show that Trump is maintaining support from about three-fourths (NBC/WSJ) to four-fifths (Pew) of white evangelical Christians. With rural voters, the Pew, NBC/WSJ, and ABC/Post polls all put him at from 55 to 60 percent support…Blue-collar white voters still significantly exceed their national share of the vote in the big Rust Belt battlegrounds that Democrats must win until they demonstrate that they can reliably flip more diverse Sun Belt states.”

Looking toward the future role of white working-class voters in American elections, John Judis writes at Talking Points Memo that “Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and the recession has cost him support among white working class voters, If Biden and Harris win in 2020, and especially if they win big, it will partly be because of the defection of these voters…If Biden and Harris win by assembling a coalition that includes these voters, then the question will be whether they can hold them, or whether they will revert back to the Republicans. That will depend on how boldly Biden and Harris proceed. Obama allowed the Republicans to peel away working class voters by his timid approach to the Great Recession, failing, among other things, to go after the bankers who were responsible for it and acceding to conservative pressure to cut spending. if Biden and Harris don’t proceed boldly, I would expect that American politics will revert to the status quo ante — what political scientist Walter Dean Burnham called an “unstable equilibrium” between the parties — where the Republicans and Democrats will exchange political power. Both parties will have to hold together different economic classes. Both will be hampered in general elections by social-minded factions on their extremes.”

Judis notes further, “I would expect the center of gravity of American politics will move somewhat to the left in Democratic and Republican politics. Two deep recessions in a decade will leave their mark in a greater willingness to use the government to cushion citizens from the loss of jobs and health insurance. Competition from China and the loss of industrial jobs will make both parties more willing to support an industrial and trade policy designed to boost American-based industries. Aside from social issues, the difference between the parties will likely be over whether to encourage traditional and non-traditional forms of worker organization and whether to adopt tax policies that dramatically redistribute income and wealth.”

Charlie Cook writes at The Cook Political Report: “The Biden campaign’s singular mission is getting 270 electoral votes, and that means winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Nothing else matters…But the Democratic Party is also trying to rebuild for the future, so reach states like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas are awfully enticing. But Georgia, Ohio, and Texas are big, expensive states. Texas alone has 20 Nielsen media markets, and Des Moines, Iowa, with its almost-statewide reach, isn’t cheap either…But the cold-blooded, reality-based decision about resources that the Biden campaign has to make applies to the Senate as well. Democrats have a surprising number of paths to a majority and beyond, but do they focus on what will get them to 51 or 52 seats, focusing on Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina? Or do they go big, dropping resources into Georgia’s two Senate races, Kansas’s open-seat race, and long-shot opportunities in Texas, or even Alaska, Louisiana, and Mississippi? Notably left off of that list are challenges to Sens. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, since Democrats’ massive fundraising base will cover those two efforts, sparing the party tough decisions there…As tough as they are, they aren’t the triage decisions that their GOP counterparts are about to begin in their allocation choices.”

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