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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Joe Biden, Keep on Doing the Voodoo That You Do!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

I’ve got to hand it to Biden. So far, he has kept his eye on the ball and is concentrating on doing the big, popular things that will benefit a wide swathe of the electorate, particularly working class voters of all races. That’s smart and exactly what the Democratic party should stand for. A good article on HuffPost reports on the positive reaction Biden’s moves are getting from Democratic politicians in competitive states and districts.

“Across the country, Democrats are uniformly lining up behind the most essential parts of Biden’s policy program, aggressively trying to sell the already-passed American Rescue Plan ― which sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and which Democrats say will help crush the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools ― with Biden himself embracing a prediction of 6% economic growth at his press conference last week.

They are eagerly anticipating his next legislative proposal, which Biden is expected to lay out in a speech in Pittsburgh this week. Early reports indicate the more than $3 trillion package will contain hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, aid for caregivers, and a package of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations.

Driving this party-wide political bet is a conviction that robust economic liberalism can renew Americans’ faith in their government, give them a political advantage on economic issues and stem continued defections among working-class voters of all races to a GOP almost exclusively focused on culture war issues.

“We’re going to keep building until every American has that peace of mind and to show that our government can fulfill its most essential purpose: to care for and protect the American people,” Biden said Tuesday during an event at Ohio State University in Columbus, with Ryan in attendance. “When we work together, we can do big things, important things, necessary things.”….

“I think people are starting to get confidence in the government again,” [Tim] Ryan [Democratic House representative from the Youngstown area of Ohio] said. “You can already feel a lot of voters saying, ‘I didn’t vote for Biden, but I appreciate what he’s doing.’ And if we keep going down this road, a lot of these people are going to approve of it.”

It’s the hope of Ryan and other Democrats that many of those voters are members of the working class. While Democrats made gains with college-educated voters during the Trump era sufficient to gain total control of the federal government, Republicans’ continued gains among voters without higher education ― including substantial gains among Latino and Hispanic voters in 2020 ― threaten the party’s viability in crucial states and districts. (American politics’ bias toward rural states and regions gives voters without college diplomas disproportionate political power.)….

Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant who has often been critical of the party’s outreach to Latinos, said the coronavirus relief package was more important to winning over Latino voters than any of Biden’s early moves to reverse Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

“The biggest thing Joe Biden did is to secure a better chance at winning more of the Latino vote was to get that bill passed and send everybody checks last week,” Rocha, who worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and now runs Nuestro PAC, told reporters in a briefing this week. “That was a huge deal.”

So far, so good. The legislative politics around the second spending package, which Biden will apparently outline on Wednesday, are quite complicated. But I am encouraged by the level of focus the administration has shown so far and hopeful they will effectively manage this challenge and get something big and important through Congress.

Over the longer term, some course correction is needed on issues where the Democrats are vulnerable (like, ahem, immigration) but for the time being the administration is commendably focused on the moves that will pay the richest dividends for the country and potentially swell the ranks for their working class sympathizers. First things first.

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