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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “How Georgia Turned Blue: And why it might not stay that way,” Perry Bacon, Jr. writes at FiveThirtyEight that “overall, the story is clear: Biden won Georgia because he did really well in the Atlanta area, far better than Obama eight years ago and significantly better than Clinton, too. Biden won about 65 percent of the two-party share of the votes in these 10 Atlanta-area counties, up from Clinton’s 59 percent in 2018. He also gained in the other 149 Georgia counties in Georgia, but it was smaller: Clinton received about 34 percent of the vote outside the Atlanta area, while Biden received about 37 percent….What does this very blue Atlanta mean for future Georgia elections — not only for the Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate seats, but also Abrams’s likely 2022 gubernatorial campaign and subsequent presidential elections?….Remember, the Democrats are losing badly in most areas of Georgia outside of Atlanta — and the state is only competitive if the Atlanta area stays as blue as it has been during the Trump era. If some Atlanta-area voters no longer view Trump as the defining figure of the GOP, do they go back to the GOP in the Senate runoffs and in subsequent elections?”

When an incomming President-elect comes from a different party from the incumbent, much of the media coverage focuses on upcoming changes regarding the cabinet and Supreme Court, along with policies regarding health care, abortion rights or environmental protection, among others. But one of the most consequential agencies, which affects the quality of life for millions of Americans is the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces labor law regarding collective baraining and unfair labor practices. As President, Biden will have the opportunity to transform this pivotal agency from an anti-labor agency into a pro-worker force with his appointments. At present the NLRB has four Republicans and one Democrat, with one seat vacant. Two of the Trump appointees, including Chairman John Ring and William Emmanuel will be replaced by Biden, who will also fill the vacant seat, giving pro-worker Democrats a majority on the Board. As Sahid Fawaz writes at Labor 411, “So how do things look for labor? Pretty good, depending on the what the Senate will look like….Biden can nominate a Democrat to the current vacant seat right after he takes office. And he can nominate another in August of next year. The two nominations, if confirmed by the Senate, would flip the Board from Republican to Democrat….Given the rash of anti-union decisions by the Board during Trump’s term, it would be a welcome change, to say the least, to see a Board that is no longer dominated by Trump-appointed Republicans…And a (big) bonus is that the term of Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel, Peter Robb, who is definitely no friend of labor, expires November of next year.” But note Fawaz’s key phrase, “depending on the what the Senate will look like” — which underscores once more the pivotal importance of Georgia’s two senate run-off election on January 5th.

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall quotes a “Democratic operative with experience working on elections from the presidency on down to local contests,” who “emailed me his views on the complexities involved in developing Democratic strategies. He insisted on anonymity to protect his job: “I do think that defund the police and socialism hurt in Trump-leaning swing districts with more culturally conservative swing voters,” he wrote, but, he continued, “it’s not clear what one can do about it as you can’t reject your own base. You do need progressive politicians to be a bit more “OK” with centrists denouncing their own base. And you need centrist politicians being OK that the grass roots will have ideas that they don’t like….This all needs to be more of a “wink wink do what you need to do” arrangement, but it’s not there right now — it’s all too raw and divisive. So as someone involved in campaign strategy, that is frustrating. But to me, this is less of a campaign and message issue, and more of a political one — it’s about organizing and aligning the various constituencies of our party to work together. If we can do that, then we can figure out how to solve the message puzzle. But if you don’t do that, then this conflict will continue….We need to extend the tent and extend the map further in some way — out of necessity. That’s where I sympathize with the centrists. You also need a strong, passionate, determined base. That’s where I sympathize with the progressives…From race, to culture, to socioeconomic status. All of these items — knowledge professions vs. working class, young vs. old, rural vs. suburban vs. urban — makes us far more complex to manage than the G.O.P.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. notes that “in 2020, Trump voters came out in droves and thus boosted down-ballot Republicans. Trump won over 10 million more votes in 2020 than in 2016 — exit polls suggest that 6.5 million of his ballots came from first-time voters — which means he brought new supporters into the electorate who were important to this year’s House GOP victories….Going forward, figuring out how Trump won an additional 10 million votes is one of the most important questions in politics. Here’s a plausible and discouraging theory: Given Trump’s intemperate and often wild ranting in the campaign’s final weeks and the growing public role in GOP politics of QAnon conspiracists, the Proud Boys and other previously marginal extremist groups, these voters may well be more radical than the party as a whole. This means that Republicans looking to the future may be more focused on keeping such Trump loyalists in the electorate than on backing away from his abuses.” Another theory, which is compatible with reports that Republicans registered more new voters in 2020 than did Democrats in key states, is that GOP strategists deployed a strategy used by the successful ‘Brexit’ movement in the U.K.: invest money and time in identifying non-voters, then match them with 500 data points (developed by Cambridge Analytica) to target them as potential Republicans for GOTV.  C.A. was involved in 44 Republican races in the U.S. in 2014, as well as Ted Cruz’s campaign in 2015 and Trump’s 2016 campaign.

5 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    you can’t control what events will occur, how anyone will respond to them, or what slogans will come from said events. You also cannot stop the stories republicans tell about democrats, so the fact that all of this happens isn’t the problem, its the response.
    Trying to put distance between centrists and the left in the party, which looks like abandoning ship as soon as the wind blows, is not an effective response. If you avoid going after republicans in favor of focusing your efforts on the left, you’re helping the gop win.
    Trump voters don’t believe anyone in the Democratic party has different views anyway; they think we’re all socialists (etc.) so declaring you agree with the republicans also looks cowardly and no one respects that. When under attack youre supposed to be defending the party for who and what it is instead of by declaring who should be thrown out, like some sacrifice to the gop hoping they’ll back off. You aren’t protecting the democratic party by separating it, you’re helping it disappear into the republican party giving them the stage.
    Centrists and progressives can try talking to and about each other using bipartisan language as an example. When the gop uses the left or centrists to attack Democrats they can defend each other/the party without having to change their views.

    I agree with Marc Farinella (quoted in Edsall article) that being the champion of each struggling group individually is not a substitute for being the champion of the working class and middle class collectively but this has to include ending the nonstop references to the white working class as Trump voters and how we dont need to talk to voters who are not them, like an exchange is the only way you can convince these people to come around.
    If you want to expand the tent, you don’t try to push anyone out because it doesn’t make sense but also those voters and anyone that sees it as a jerk move will eventually go to another party just like the precious white working class did. aka oversized truck driving angry white men and the women that love them

    • Candace on

      “aka oversized truck driving angry white men and the women that love them”

      Dang it. Its like having to walk over a mopped floor because you realize you dropped something in the middle of it. I have to add something to that.

      “The Rise of White Identity Politics

      “What explains high levels of group identity and consciousness? “Threat to one’s group,” Jardina argues, “activates one’s group identity.””

      which explains gop messaging. They never let that go.

      “Liberals thus have an urgent interest in countering the troubling rise in white racial identification. What, if anything, should they do differently? Four alternatives seem possible. First, liberals could educate whites about the roots of racial inequality and white privilege in hopes of changing their minds. Second, they could downplay racial justice issues. Third, they could try to achieve racial equality through race-neutral programs. Finally, they could champion an affirmative and inclusive American identity as an alternative to group-based identity. The first two ideas have serious flaws. But the latter two might work”


      I agree the first two ideas were terrible and the latter two were good. I also think a government funded ancestry program would be helpful.

    • Victor on

      This comment is a very good example of why liberal Democrats can’t communicate beyond their bubbles.

      So the 20% of the white working class that is part of the Democratic party base are also “oversized truck driving angry white men and the women that love them”?

      This disdain can be read between the lines of what you post all the time and it has become almost dogma among liberal Democrats.

      The things that are said of white working class and poor men nowadays are very similar to the pathologization of Black men during the deindustrialization of cities.

      The multiracial professional class seems perfectly content to not just copy but deepen these class based critiques because of the racial partisan divide among Blacks and the lack of an independent working class Hispanic and Asian leadership.

      At some point the tent is indeed stretched so much that it breaks. The issue is that while AOC can win in her district by kicking out white working class men, Democrats can’t win the Senate and probably not the Electoral College and won’t have working majorities in the House via this strategy.

      Even AOC will be in trouble if Hispanic men like myself continue seeing the policy intransigence and cultural elitism as red lines. Preliminary results in her district for her are not good. I volunteered with her campaign in 2018 but I’m disappointed at her constant shifting from economic populist to cultural elitism.

      Furthermore, there is historical evidence for Democrats actually doing better when a national message is enforced via party discipline, while almost non-stop evidence for the damage that the party suffers for its reputation not as disorganized (ie “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”).

      The people inside the Democratic party that are fully committed to concept like defund the police and abolish ICE are nowhere near 20% of the party base and their views don’t deserve to be treated as the party line.

      So this isn’t abandoning ship. It is defending the right of mainstream Democrats to steer the ship towards a message that allows for an overwhelming vote for Democrats like Biden got.

      Nobody is advocating to “avoid going after republicans”. This is a typical straw man argument, the kind of intellectually dishonest thing one expects from the right.

      “Trump voters don’t believe anyone in the Democratic party has different views anyway” is a liberal myth based on a dishonest generalization.

      “they think we’re all socialists” disproven by opinion polling.

      “declaring you agree with the republicans also looks cowardly and no one respects that” is a gross oversimplification of policy debates.

      “When under attack youre supposed to be defending the party for who and what it is”…what does this even mean? Does this presume Democrats are the party for defunding police or for socialism?

      “When the gop uses the left or centrists to attack Democrats they can defend each other/the party without having to change their views.” This doesn’t work in real life. What works in real life is clearly standing up for something and against other things. Your argument is completely contradictory.

  2. Victor on

    The Squad isn’t the base of the Democratic party. The Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses are basically ignored by media while the Squad gets outsized attention.


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