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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson comments on the political fallout Bob Woodward’s revelation that Trump knew of the severity of the Covid-19 virus threat, but decided not to inform the public, even though it would have saved lives: “When Trump’s time came — in February — we now know that he perfectly understood the pernicious nature of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. But while he told Woodward in a phone call “this is deadly stuff” and that the pathogen caused a viciously contagious illness much worse than the flu, Trump didn’t level with the American people. In fact, he deliberately misled them and failed to prepare the government for a vast national effort. Worse, for weeks he continued to misinform the country about the severity of the pathogen that caused the worst global pandemic in 100 years…The 190,000 American families who lost loved ones and could never say goodbye, the millions of unemployed, the business owners who went bust, a generation of kids who haven’t been in class for months and everyone else self-distanced from their regular lives now face the same question: How different would things have been had the President done his job properly?…the latest controversy probably won’t help him win back defections from suburban voters and will bolster Biden heading into their first debate in three weeks.”

“The pandemic has killed some 190,000 Americans, and 8 in 10 of the deaths reported have been among those 65 or over,” Clare Malone writes in “Why Trump Might Be Scaring Off Older Voters” at FiveThirtyEight. “President Trump’s delayed and fractured response to the outbreak appears to have reshaped the political dynamics for older Americans. Four years ago, he won voters 65 or over by a margin of 13.3 percentage points. But looking at an average of the nine most recent national polls, voters age 65 or over1 favored Biden to Trump by 49.5 percent to 45.7 percent…Despite these provocative pro-Trump images coming out of Florida, the shift toward Biden is evident in the state, a key to winning the Electoral College. A late August Quinnipiac University poll in Florida showed Biden leading Trump among older voters, by 54 percent to 44 percent and another late August poll of Florida voters, this one by Public Policy Polling, showed Biden in the lead among the same group,2 by 52 percent to 47 percent. This stands in contrast to the sentiments of older Florida voters at around this time four years ago.”

Trump’s epic mismanagement of the response to the pandemic is further amplified by his relentless undermining of the Affordable Care Act, as well as his failure to offer any reforms of America’s profit-driven health care “system.” Framing the arguments for comprehensive national health care coverage is tricky at this political moment. But German Lopez shares some compelling statistics at Vox, including: “If the US had the same death rate as the European Union overall, nearly 84,000 Americans wouldn’t have died from Covid-19 (out of the nearly 190,000 who have died so far)…If the US had the same death rate as Canada, nearly 109,000 Americans wouldn’t have died from Covid-19…The US is doing about seven times worse than the median developed country, ranking in the bottom 20 percent for Covid-19 deaths among wealthy nations. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost as a result.”

At The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuval explains “How the Biden Campaign Can Turn Trump’s ‘Strength’ Into a Weakness,” and writes, “For all of Trump’s boasts that jobs are returning, the country is still down about 11.5 million jobs. Temporary furloughs are turning into permanent layoffs; long-term unemployment is rising: Some 29 million Americans were drawing unemployment in mid-August…He and the Republican Senate oppose raising the minimum wage. They oppose proposals for employer-paid parental leave and sick days. The Biden campaign should be pounding the reality of Trump’s economy over and over again while talking about what Biden would do to create jobs and lift wages. Instead, the Democratic convention focused largely on Trump’s lack of character and empathy. Biden traveled last week to Pennsylvania, where the jobless rate is 13.7 percent, and…he talked about looting and violence rather than about jobs…too many Americans still give Trump unwarranted credit for the economy…Too many working people believe that while Trump is a cad, he is their cad, on their side. That’s his strength — and it’s where Democrats should focus. Bringing down Trump won’t take lies or exaggerations. Just lay out the truth and hammer it over and over to turn Trump’s “strength” into a weakness.”

In “Election Beat 2020: Where did all the swing voters go?,” Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, author of Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself?, writes at Journalists Resource: “The hostility that many partisans have for the other party is a larger driver of the vote than might be assumed. Party identification was once the best predictor of how people would vote on election day — Democrats lining up behind their party’s candidate and Republicans backing their party’s nominee. But party identification no longer has that distinction. When Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster examined post-1990s elections, they found that “ratings of the opposing party were by far the strongest predictor” of vote choice. “The greatest concern of party supporters,” they write, “is preventing the opposing party from gaining power…So how many undecided voters are there at the moment and how will they respond to Trump and Biden in the campaign’s remaining weeks? They  number less than 10% of self-described likely voters, down even from recent campaigns and a mere third of the number of presidential campaigns of a few decades ago. It’s unlikely that either candidate will capture a super-majority of the undecided. Typically, the split is within a narrow range, enough to tip a razor-thin election but otherwise a footnote in post-campaign analyses.”

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edall asks “Can Trump eke out an Election Day victory by focusing attention and capitalizing politically on the looting and fire-setting associated with some of the Black Lives Matter protests spurred by the police killing of Floyd and other African-Americans?” In response, Edsall quotes from several studies and experts on political attitudes, including “Christian Davenport, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan and the author of “Media Bias, Perspective and State Repression: The Black Panther Party,” who “does not believe there will be much movement either to the left or the right among racially conservative whites. In an email, he argued that The truth of the matter is that there is probably very little that could take place during the protests that would shift the opinion of some whites. Their positions are fixed already and they would likely only see the negative manifestations which you could almost always find during extended campaigns.

Edsall adds, “But Trump continues to trail Biden in head-to-head surveys. Unlike Nixon or Bush, Trump’s appeals to law and order have not yet paid off in the polls. Why not?…I think my colleague Ron Brownstein may have pinpointed the reason Trump has had trouble capitalizing on the violence in a Sept. 3 Atlantic article, “The Huge Snag in Trump’s Re-election Pitch”: The biggest problem with Trump running on restoring order is that his performance in office has caused many voters to view him as the candidate of disorder. Edsall notes further, “An August 27-28 Yahoo/YouGov survey asked registered voters “which comes closest to your view, ‘Trump will protect us from the chaos’ or ‘Trump is the source of the chaos’?” 30 percent chose protect and 50 percent said Trump was the source of chaos…A more recent September 2-4 CBS News survey asked whether Biden and Trump are “trying to calm the situation down” or “trying to encourage fighting.” By 49-30, voters said Biden was trying to calm the situation while, in the case of Trump, voters said he was trying to encourage fighting by 47-39.”

Regarding he politics of marijuana legalization in 2020, Natalie Fertig and Paul Demco write at Politico: “As more states legalize medical marijuana, recreational cannabis, or both — at least four states will put recreational legalization on the ballot in November — over 250,000 people remain in prison for nonviolent drug offenses at the state or federal level. According to the ACLU, Black people are on average four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people — and in some states the ratio is as high as 10 to one — even though studies have shown they use the drug at comparable rates…According to his campaign, Biden believes that “no one should be in jail for using marijuana.” He supports removing criminal penalties and expunging past records, but wants to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. The Controlled Substances Act is a list of all federally banned substances which became law in 1970, and it has five tiers, or “schedules.”…In July, the DNC adopted Biden’s position on cannabis — a step back from the pro-legalization platform of 2016. But advocates reason now that the former VP’s platform is essentially in line with the MORE Act, arguing that both want to remove criminal penalties, expunge records and let states decide how to further legalize.”

Lest it get lost in the daily deluge of Trump’s moral atrocities, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “the Justice Department’s move to intervene in the defense of President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her should have friends of freedom shouting from the rooftops. For the U.S. government to substitute itself for Trump as the defendant puts the department at the disposal of one man, forces taxpayers to cover the costs of the president’s defense in what is a quintessentially private matter and is plainly aimed at preventing the public from learning more about the charges in the lawsuit before the election…Barr’s minions are, quite literally, trying to deny [Trump’s accuser] Carroll her day in court. At taxpayer expense…Which is why voters need to resist becoming numb to forms of corruption that not only violate the norms of good government but also threaten to undermine equal justice and democratic rule. They are the only ones who can stop Trump.”

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