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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley writes that “the past two elections reveal a potential long-term problem for Democrats, especially if we continue to have close, competitive elections: “wasted” votes. That is, Democrats seem to be disproportionately running up the score in some large, blue-leaning states, which helps with the national popular vote but provides no benefit in the Electoral College. Take a state like California: Biden would have won its 55 electoral votes whether he won by 5.1 million votes, as he did, or by just 1 vote. In other words, that’s a lot of wasted Democratic votes. If we expand this out to the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Democrats “wasted” 15.1 million votes compared to the GOP’s 8 million, a difference of 7.1 million votes — about the same as Biden’s 7-million-vote national margin, and roughly his combined margin of victory in California and New York….Given America’s increasing urban-rural divide, this inefficient distribution of Democratic-leaning voters could continue to hurt Democrats electorally and help the GOP, as the Electoral College and other institutions, such as the Senate, are biased toward small states. Those less populous states — especially more rural ones — are more likely to lean Republican….But if the Frost Belt states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin continue to lean somewhat to the right of the country, that will benefit the GOP in the Electoral College — unless there is a counter-shift elsewhere in the Democrats’ favor. In 2020, for example, Biden narrowly carried traditionally Republican states like Arizona and Georgia. Those two states alone can’t make up for Democrats losing that Frost Belt trio, but Democratic improvement in those states and other places in the Sun Belt (whither “Blue Texas?”) could undo the Republicans’ current edge in the Electoral College.”

Kyle Kondik notes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “From a historical perspective, just an average midterm performance by Republicans would be more than enough to flip both chambers of Congress next year. Republicans will need to net just a single seat in the Senate and a half-dozen or so in the House. Since World War II, the president’s party has lost an average of 27 House seats and 3.5 Senate seats in midterms, although individual yearly results have varied widely….Joe Biden, as president, could end up presiding over a strong economic recovery as the nation (we hope) eventually leaves COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. A divided GOP with Trump remaining a major and divisive figure could lead to outcomes like we saw in the Georgia Senate runoffs, with an engaged, united Democratic Party fending off a slightly less engaged and united GOP. That is one midterm possibility; there are others that would be better for the GOP.”

“By defining with clarity why he was elected and the obligation he has assumed,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Biden pointed the country and his presidency toward its most important task: the revival of the democratic spirit and the protection and expansion of democracy itself….From his very first words, he underscored why this was no normal Inauguration Day and why the 2020 election was anything but a routine exercise. Democracy itself had been challenged for four years, and violently so during the spasm of disrespect at the nation’s Capitol only two weeks ago….Biden took aim, indirectly but unmistakably, at the dishonesty of the Trump years, particularly the former president’s Big Lie casting Biden’s own election as illegitimate, which led to the desecration of the very building before which he took his oath. The new president’s words could also be read as a sally against right-wing media that fed and amplified his predecessor’s mendacity….Of course, unity will not come easily. The country still faces, as Biden noted, the dangers of “political extremism, white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism.” Biden’s program has already come under Republican attack….But suddenly, the nation faced at least the possibility of having normal arguments over normal issues. And it will be a nation, as Biden insisted, that appreciates far more than it did four years ago that democracy is a gift that must be defended, nurtured and treasured.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall notes that “Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard, wrote in an email: The invasion of the Capitol gives Biden an opportunity to reach out to Republicans who expressed their unease with Trump after Jan. 6, including Mitch McConnell. I expect Biden to be very effective legislating. Biden knows how to get things done, based on his experience in the White House as vice president and on the Hill as a senator….Biden, in Ansolabehere’s view, does have one significant weakness: His Achilles’ heel is communication. He has a great personal style, but that can fall flat and he is prone to snafus. He has a history of being baited in public and a bit too quick, resulting in misstatements. It’s unclear if he has adapted fully to the social media age. Communications might be a struggle, especially compared to the always entertaining Donald J. Trump….If Biden remains committed to a restoration of bipartisanship in Congress, his administration, in Ansolabehere’s view, will face an ongoing struggle as it attempts to balance the demands of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party while recruiting at least a few Republicans. “I would not be surprised to see a big infrastructure bill with a lot of money for roads, airports and energy,” Ansolabehere said. “That is the kind of measure that would get everybody on board.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. John on

    I am going to disagree in part with this notion of “wasted votes.” Basically I see a lot of people moving from California to points (states) east of them. The same thing with people from New York and New Jersey moving south. My old state of Virginia went from red to blue in 2 decades. My new state of North Carolina is now purple and heading toward blue. Georgia too. So these excess voters are carrying with them democratic leanings which will help tilt these, and other states, toward Democrats.

  2. Victor on

    Democrats rarely receive “earned media” (specially on social media) because they speak in the most careful of terms due to fear of potentially offending anyone.


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