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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

AP’s Thomas Beaumont comments on the “Democratic plan in rural, swing state counties: Lose by less,” and writes: “Democrats are hoping to find just enough voters…to shave Trump’s margins in rural areas while they rack up larger numbers in cities and suburbs. They have put in money in the millions and staff in the dozens to try to make it happen…Their unorthodox strategy: win by losing by less…“The general theory of the case goes like this: We’re trying not to lose as bad,” veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said of the rural and small-town counties Trump swung to his side in 2016. “Because when you don’t lose as bad at one thing, you can win everything.”…Carville has helped raise millions of dollars for Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century’s $30 million advertising effort aimed at picking off voters in rural and working-class counties across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin…Trump carried all three states by about 77,000 votes out of 13.5 million cast. But in doing so, he peeled off 37 counties carried in 2012 by Barack Obama. Trump likely must again win all three of the states, which the Democratic nominee had carried in six consecutive elections before 2016, if he is to get a second term.

From “Here’s How Biden’s Republican Endorsement Strategy May Be Working” by Jack Brewster at Forbes: “Some progressives have criticized Democrats’ strategy of highlighting Republican endorsements as fruitless because Biden’s standing among Republicans has not improved—and may actually be worse than past Democratic nominees… But the tactic may be helping Biden secure the support of independent voters, a key voting bloc that makes up 38% of the American public overall—more than Democrats or Republicans—and a group that swung to Trump by 6 points in 2016.,,Multiple polls have shown Biden ahead of Trump among independents, who tend to describe themselves as more moderate (43%) than liberal or conservative, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, by a widermargin than Hillary Clinton during the same time period in 2016…A Morning Consult poll—conducted from July 31 to August 2 in a survey of 1,991 registered voters—found that far fewer independent voters dislike Biden (31%) as compared to Clinton (51%.)”

In his article at The Nation, “The Democrats Just Showed Us a Weakness in Their 2020 Strategy: Trump and his cronies are going to exploit this fumble if the Democrats don’t work fast to address it,” Robert Borosage writes, “Exposing Trump’s con of his working-class voters wouldn’t have been hard. His tax cuts larded the pockets of the rich and corporations, while workers never saw the raises that were promised. His trade policies left manufacturing in a recession even before the pandemic, while his tax bill actually rewarded corporations that moved jobs abroad. He and the Republican Senate are blocking continued support for the 28 million people still on unemployment. He continues to try to repeal Obamacare without offering an alternative. Yet deaths of despair, the opioid epidemic, the continued shuttering of factories got little attention at the Democratic convention…Democrats did not offer a clear argument about why this economy does not work for most Americans—a reality that long precedes Trump—and what Biden proposes to do about it…This strategic choice reflects the campaign’s strategy: The presidential campaign apparently won’t reach out to the white working class, particularly men. Democrats will focus on turning out the vote of the people of color and the young and making inroads in the suburbs, particularly among women. This slights the very voters—the Obama-Trump voters in the key states of the Midwest—who cost Hillary Clinton the election in 2016.”

Borosage concludes that Trump will “sell a mythical pre-pandemic economy and promise a miraculous post-pandemic recovery. The strategic decision of Democrats to ignore his con of working people gives Trump an open field to be the populist in the race…Even if Biden goes on to win, the Democratic default has worrisome implications. Without a mandate, Biden will have more trouble building a majority for systemic change. His calls for unity and bipartisan cooperation will empower the deep pockets, the entrenched interests, and the conservative wing of the party…In the long run, betrayed by Trump and neglected by Democrats, the white working class will be left without a party. The appeal to people of color on the basis of identity rather than economic interest is likely to have a limited shelf life. Democrats may well find that the failure to ground their coalition and their agenda in the broad working class will make it impossible to build a broad majority for the fundamental changes we need.”

As the GOP convention comes to a close, New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall discusses the psychological underpinnings of “The frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda”  which is “on display at the R.N.C. ” Edsall agrees that the Republican Party is dedicated to the twin policies of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. But the principle that packs “a bigger punch” is “the preservation of the status quo by stemming the erosion of the privileged status of white Christian America.” Edsall probes the depths of racial fears and quotes several scholars on the topic, including Yale polical Scientist Milan W. Svolik,  who writes in his 2017 paper “When Polarization Trumps Civic Virtue: Partisan Conflict and the Subversion of Democracy by Incumbents,”: “In the classics of democratization research,” Svolik writes, “the public’s disapproval is assumed to serve as a check on incumbents’ temptations to subvert democracy.” Edsall explains, “In polarized societies, however, “this check fails” because the strength of partisan loyalty, for many voters “makes it costly for them to punish an incumbent by voting for a challenger. Incumbents exploit this lack of credible punishment by manipulating the democratic process in their favor. A mass of centrist voters provides precisely the kind of credible deterrent against manipulation that polarized societies lack.” Edsall believes “polarization weakens the ability of moderate, centrist voters to serve as a check on extreme political behavior.”

“In an email,” Edsall adds, “Svolik raised the next logical question:” “If supporters of both parties oppose/tolerate authoritarianism at similar levels, how come it is the Republican Party that is primarily associated with authoritarian tendencies today?” In reply to his own question,” Svolik writes, “The quick answer is Trump.” But “The deeper answer is that the opportunities to subvert the democratic process for partisan gain have become asymmetrical. Because of the biases inherent in political geography and demographic partisan patterns, the two most easily implementable means of gaining an unfair electoral advantage — gerrymandering and voter identification laws — only offer opportunities for unfair play to Republicans.”

Chris Cillizza shares “Hillary Clinton’s dire Election Day warning to Joe Biden” at CNN’s ‘The Point’: “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,” Clinton told longtime Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri in an excerpt of Showtime’s “The Circus” released Tuesday. Added Clinton: “We’ve got to have a massive legal operation, I know the Biden campaign is working on that. We have to have poll workers, and I urge people, who are able, to be a poll worker. We have to have our own teams of people to counter the force of intimidation that the Republicans and Trump are going to put outside polling places. This is a big organizational challenge, but at least we know more about what they’re going to do.” Cillizza adds, “She is, on the facts, exactly right in the advice she is giving to Biden. With lots and lots of mailed-in ballots needed to be counted in the days leading up to Election Day — and on November 3 itself — it would be political malpractice for Biden to concede to Trump (or vice versa) if the election were clearly very close.”

“So, it is the job of Democrats up and down the ballot to integrate patriotism into their campaign messaging,” Henry Schultz writes in his op-ed at The Claremont Independent. “The only Democratic candidate I’ve seen try to do this is Pete Buttigieg. He categorized his presidential campaign policy priorities into three values historically claimed by Republicans: freedom, security, and democracy. An example is that he defined security not just in the context of traditional military defense, but also in our ability to combat climate change for future generations. An integral part of reclaiming patriotism is taking back the language that has enabled Republicans to be viewed as the patriotic party. Buttigieg’s strategy can serve as a blueprint for Democrats on how to align these broad values and liberal public policy…Practically, this strategy can take the form of the Biden campaign running ads about Trump’s abandonment of American troops in swing states with large military bases, like North Carolina. According to that same Economist article, the US military was 75% white in 1990, and now around 45% of service members are from mostly Democratic-voting minorities. The US military is seen as a symbol of patriotism to many, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to position themselves as strong on national security. Politically, this pivot is a low-hanging fruit to pick and it also will support the longer-term plan of redefining the patriotism narrative…If the Democratic Party can detach itself from the tight grasp of Republican influence, it will be able to articulate a bold vision for the next generation that associates patriotism with the policies for which we have fought.”

Elena Mejia and Geoffrey Skelley write at FiveThirtyEight that “Arizona, Georgia and Texas all moved at least 4 points to the left in 2016, and it’s possible they’ll move even farther in 2020. After all, the 2018 midterm elections showed these states could elect Democrats statewide, or at least, come very close. Democrats won a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona for the first time since 1988, while Republicans only narrowly won Texas’s Senate race and Georgia’s gubernatorial contest…What explains the leftward shift in these traditionally Republican states? For one thing, these states are more racially and ethnically diverse than most of the other states we’ve looked at — Arizona and Texas have large Hispanic populations, for instance, while Georgia has a sizable Black electorate — and people of color tend to vote more Democratic. But these fairly urban states have also seen their major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix become increasingly Democratic because of the surge in college-educated voters. At present, the FiveThirtyEight forecast anticipates these states will lean similar to how they did 2016, although further shifts to the left are plausible…For Democrats, the hope would be that those three states trend in ways similar to Colorado and Virginia, two formerly red states whose diverse and highly educated electorates have moved them to the left over the past two decades.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. John Russo on

    The article is reflective of what I seeing in Ohio where the Democrats have a real chance to win this purple state. But not providing substantive policy proposal ( many contained in the platform), allowing Republicans to secure all the signifiers of patriotism, and exploiting the schisms in the Ohio Republican Party, could lead them to defeat once again.


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