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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “The Challenge of Going It Alone” at The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter argues that “the problem with pushing through major legislation on a party-line vote is that it alienates not just those in the other party, but it may fail to attract independent voters. If only one side is willing to defend it — and the other side is busy trashing it — well, that law can become pretty unpopular, very quickly.” However, Walter adds, “If the economy recovers, vaccine production and distribution improve, and families can plan for summer vacations and schools back in session, process arguments about a lack of bipartisan outreach aren’t going to get much traction.” But, “if the next six months are messy, those attacks will likely carry more of a sting. Republicans will have an easier time making the case that Democrats, in their zeal to promote their own limited agenda, failed to fix the nations more serious problems.” On the other hand, “If things go well over the next six months, both sides can take credit. If things don’t go well — say the vaccine distribution is still not fixed or the economy is still sputtering or schools are still shuttered — it won’t matter that Biden was able to get a bipartisan bill to tackle these issues. The blame will fall squarely on him and his party.”

In Robert Kuttner’s “Student Debt Cancellation and the Working Class” at The American Prospect, he writes that “the optics of student debt relief raise issues of social class. Almost by definition, people who attend four-year colleges are better off than those who don’t…And the Democrats have a political problem with the non-college-educated, who voted disproportionately for Donald Trump. College student debt relief at government expense is not exactly popular with those who never got to attend college….For working-class kids, the most plausible ladder within near reach is community college. But even community college costs several thousand dollars a year, plus lost income if you attend full-time….So how about balancing the perceived class favoritism of student debt relief with a big aid package for community college? It could include having the federal government cover all tuition costs, plus a stipend, as the original GI Bill did….How about if we balance that with $20 billion for free tuition plus stipends for public community college students?”

At The L. A. Times, Laura W. Brill and Vicki C. Shapiro of The Civics Center offer some suggestions for increasing voter turnout among younger voters in California, and some of their ideas could be applied in other states. For example, Brill and Shapiro write, “Georgia showed the nation that it’s possible to do much more to encourage young people to support democracy. Through the work of community activists and groups, the share of voters under 25 more than doubled in the Georgia electorate between 2016 and 2020….California could learn from Georgia, a state where a strict voter ID law creates obstacles for young voters and does not allow people to preregister to vote until they turn 17½….In California, we have most of the technical apparatus that voting rights advocates champion. We have online voter registration and automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as preregistration beginning at age 16. What we don’t have are the social systems we need to make these laws work….What is missing in California and most of its school districts is a requirement that high schools help their students register, provide a strong civics curriculum, train teachers in every high school, provide necessary funds and measure results, school by school….The state could streamline the online system (as Pennsylvania has) to allow people to upload a signature in the online registration process and confirm their citizenship by a sworn statement and the last four digits of their Social Security number. Paper voter registration forms in California do not require submission of a state ID, and the online system should not be more burdensome.”

Rob Stein’s article, “Biden’s Key to Success: Majorities of Expediency” at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, makes a case for “the conscious, purposeful will by leaders inside and outside government to do all in their power to build the alliances, issue by issue, that are necessary to govern effectively on behalf of the American people.” Stein rolls out the particulars of this strategy for Dems and concludes, “Two months before the shameful siege of the Capitol by MAGA followers, incited by the President himself and his congressional allies, 81 million Americans voted for Biden/Harris. These generally are Americans committed more to country than to party and who champion democratic institutions and norms. They span the ideological spectrum from some on the progressive left to some on the conservative right, and of course everyone in between….What makes the next months and years so exceptional and the potential for forging majorities of expediency so possible is the elegant alignment of the man, the moment, and this remarkably broad electoral majority. We are not in another FDR or LBJ moment, and Biden is neither of those men. Rather, he has come to power just as our nation has been awakened to the profound dangers of our fragility. We understand, perhaps as never before, that failure to govern is not an option. It is an incitement to chaos…A Biden Administration that is fortified by the broadest, deepest, and largest coalition of voters in recent times, led by one of this era’s most skilled relationship builders, and a nation in desperate need of problem solving is perhaps our last, best chance for governing our republic in order to create a more just society and erect a bulwark against the ravages of authoritarian populism.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    1. The majorities of expediency idea is based on nothing more than wishful thinking. The US doesn’t have proportional representation and the factions inside the coalitions are increasingly subordinated to the main faction, which in the case of the right is clearly anti-democratic grievance authoritarianism. Primaries favor extremists and unless the primary systems are changed they will continue to do so, but more on the right than the left because people on the left believe in compromise while those on the right don’t (polling consistently points this out).

    2. The only reason Democrats are obsessed about student debt as opposed to other personal debt is because these loans are guaranteed by the federal government. This just goes to show that the government guarantee itself is a problem. In legal accounting terms it would be interesting to see how a massive loan cancellation or postponement would be treated under congressional acts because for these loans the federal deficit may be seen as increasing. For housing loans guaranteed by the federal government there is a similar issue. During Covid the federal government has also had to intervene to indirectly guarantee rent payments and business payrolls.

    Why can’t Democrats come up with an overall aid package that is targeted at the non-college working class? All debt incurred during Covid should have been rolled over for these two years. People have car loans debts, phone bills, credit card debt. Between consumer protection laws and Federal Reserve intervention the US has the instruments to take action without increasing the deficit. Instead Congress is directly financing expenditure like rent and payrolls.

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