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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

There are lots of perceptive insights in George Packer’s article, “Republicans Are Suddenly Afraid of Democracy” in The Atlantic. Here’s an excerpt: “Biden and his vice-presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, should remind voters that Republicans, not Democrats, have turned the Senate into a body that produces no legislation but simply functions as a conveyor belt to cram every level of the judiciary with partisan conservative judges, filling seats that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced President Obama to leave empty. The goal of this strategy is to seize control of the third, unelected branch of government and use it to prevent the elected branches, if they ever return to majority rule, from governing. What we’re hearing now from these latter-day Calhouns is fear of representative democracy.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are answering questions about “court-packing” by pointing out that the Republicans are doing it right now. As Harris has noted, “of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black.” Biden has said, ““We should be focused on what’s happening right now,” he said. “And the fact is that the only packing going on is this court is being packed now by the Republicans after the vote has already begun. I’m going to stay focused on it so we don’t take our eyes off the ball here.”… The size of the high court has been changed a half-dozen times in U.S. history, and the Constitution’s framers deliberately allowed for changing the size without requiring a constitutional amendment. Besides, what alternative to Democrats have, other than meekly accepting McConnell’s abuse of long-standing, bipartisan hearing procedures? Allowing 6-3 Republican majority to stand would mean, not only a reversal of Roe v. Wade, marriage equality and ending the Affordable Care Act, but even more tolerance for voter suppression, crushing unions, undermining employee rights, weakening environmental, criminal justice and consumer protections, to name a few endangered Democratic reforms. Democrats have a job to do in educating the public about the need to expand the Supreme Court. But not using the rules to to their advantage, as McConnell does all the time, would be political suicide. The radicalism of McConnell, more than anyone else, has made expanding the court nearly inevitable.

In “Pack” the Supreme Court? Absolutely 100% yes — it’s the only way to save democracy” at salon.com, Paul Rosenberg quotes University of Washington political scientist Scott Lemieux, who has pointed out that violations of bipartisan norms have “all led to constitutional crises that ended only when the court itself backed down,” including Franklin D. Roosevelt’s oft-misremembered confrontation, which put an end to the court striking down New Deal legislation, most notably the Social Security Act. Nor is there any “normal” way out through political victory, Lemieux warns: A 6-3 conservative majority “would be essentially impossible for Democrats to displace through ordinary means, irrespective of the results of future elections.”…So what might seem in isolation like an extreme or unwarranted norm-breaking move by Democrats is actually the exact opposite: an act of restoration to the guiding shared norms that have predominated across better than two centuries. Continued violation of these shared norms will only intensify the erosion of trust that brought us Donald Trump in the first place, and which he has greatly intensified with the enthusiastic cooperation of Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell…So expanding the Supreme Court is the only option. As I said earlier, the real question is by how much.”

Notre Dame history professor Bill Svelmoe has a suggestion for Democratic senators questioning Judge Amy Barrett at the Supreme Court hearings, which begin Monday. An excerpt from his Facebook page: “If Democrats do attend the hearings, they should not focus on Barrett’s views on any future cases. She’ll just dodge those questions anyway…Instead Democrats should focus on the past four years of the Trump administration…“Judge Barrett, would you please explain the emoluments clause in the Constitution. [She does.] Judge Barrett, if a president were to refuse to divest himself of his properties and, in fact, continue to steer millions of dollars of tax payer money to his properties, would this violate the emoluments clause?”…Then turn to the Hatch Act. “Judge Barrett, would you please explain the Hatch Act to the American people….Then turn to all the other violations of the Hatch Act during the Republican Convention. Get Barrett’s opinion on those. Then turn to Congressional Oversight.“…Then go through all of the contacts between the Trump administration and Russians during the election and get her opinion on whether these amount to collusion. Doesn’t matter how she answers. It gets Trump’s perfidy back in front of Americans right before the election…Ask her about the separation of children from their parents at the border. And on and on and on through the worst and most corrupt administration in our history…Even if Barrett bobs and weaves and dodges all of this, it reminds Americans right before the election of just how awful this administration has been…”

At Politico, Holly Otterbein explains why “‘Forgotten’ Pennsylvania region holds key to Trump’s fate” – and why watching election returns from PA’s Luzerne County may provide an early election eve ‘tell’ about the 2020 presidential election outcome: “Trump won working-class Luzerne by 26,000 votes in 2016 — nearly 60 percent of his margin of victory in a state that he narrowly carried. As part of his strategy to win Pennsylvania again, his campaign is betting on increased turnout in the small cities and rural reaches of the northeast…If Biden somehow managed to take back Luzerne County, it would make it virtually impossible for Trump to win Pennsylvania — and likely the presidency. It would also signal that Democrats had loosened the GOP’s grip on blue-collar white voters, something that could have ramifications for years to come. In fact, even if Biden simply cut back the size of Trump’s victory in the region, it would make Trump’s path to victory in the state very difficult.”

In “Republicans express fears Donald Trump will lose presidential election” at The Guardian, Richard Luscombe writes, “Ted Cruz fears an election “bloodbath”. His fellow top Republican senator Thom Tillis is talking in terms of a Joe Biden presidency. And even Mitch McConnell, the fiercely loyal Senate majority leader, won’t go near the White House over Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus protocols…Individually, they could arguably be seen as off-the-cuff comments from Trump’s allies attempting to rally support for the US president just days ahead of a general election that opinion polls increasingly show him losing…But collectively, along with pronouncements from several other Republicans appearing to distance themselves from Trump, his administration and its policies, it reflects growing concern inside the Republican party’s top tier that 3 November could be a blowout win for Joe Biden and the Democrats…“I think it could be a terrible election. I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions,” Cruz, the junior senator for Texas and former vocal critic of Trump, said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday.”

In another article in The Atlantic, “Trump’s Very Ordinary Indifference to the Common Good,” Brooke Harrington, author of Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percentamplifiess a theme that might make for a potent Democratic ad. As Harrington writes, “what The New York Times revealed in its recent reporting on Trump’s tax returns was not just one man’s refusal of his fiscal obligations. Those returns, along with Trump’s whole approach to governing, are a concrete manifestation of a broader and more troubling phenomenon: an elite insurgency in which wealthy, well-connected people around the world stiff the societies that gave them success. Observing Trump’s open defiance of the law and rejection of accountability, many critics have attributed the pattern to the quirks of Trump’s individual psychology. But they have missed the larger picture: This president is an entirely ordinary member of a global elite whose members believe that rules are for chumps…His offhand remark while filming Access Hollywood 15 years ago could serve as the unofficial motto for the whole offshore world: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Put another way, it’s the arrogance, stupid.

At Vox, , , and  probe “What a Democratic Senate wants,” and explain: “If they flip the Senate, Democrats are clear-eyed that their first priority must be more Covid-19 relief — especially now that a preelection deal looks increasingly unlikely. Up next is trying to supercharge a lagging economy with a green jobs bill, likely including a massive infrastructure package on which Democrats hope to find common ground with Republicans. Democrats also want to pass sweeping anti-corruption reforms, enhance and expand the Affordable Care Act, consider a public option, and take up a criminal justice bill to combat police brutality against Black Americans. And that doesn’t even get to other priorities like immigration reform or passing universal background checks…Broadly, some senior Democrats are imagining what they have called a “never again” agenda if they control the White House and Congress, a response to Covid-19 that addresses many of America’s economic and health disparities exposed by the pandemic. Covering the 30 million or so Americans who are still uninsured would be a natural fit for such a legislative agenda. “First, you have to stop the bleeding,” one senior Democratic official said recently. “But if we don’t take full advantage of this moment, we’ll be making a huge mistake.”

Some good points about the difference between legitimate “Poll watching” and intimidation in this video:

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    Bill Svelmoe seems to think that just because you asked a question it will be answered. The answer to the question “Does x violate y?” inevitably leads to the immediate response “I cannot comment on issues that may come before the court.”


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