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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats to introduce bill to expand Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices: President Joe Biden announced the formation of a commission last week to study the court’s structure, including the number of justices and their length of service.” by Sahil Kapur at nbcnews.com:  “Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, joining progressive activists pushing to transform the court. The move intensifies a high-stakes ideological fight over the future of the court after President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years, including one who was confirmed days before the 2020 election….The Democratic bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mondaire Jones of New York….The Supreme Court can be expanded by an act of Congress, but the legislation is highly unlikely to become law in the near future given Democrats’ slim majorities, which include scores of lawmakers who are not on board with the idea. President Joe Biden has said he is “not a fan” of packing the court….”This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans,” said Brian Fallon, a former Senate Democratic leadership aide and a co-founder of Demand Justice, who described the court as “broken and in need of reform.”….”Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the court and protect our democracy,” he said.”

The next time you hear an argument about the wisdom of President Biden’s decision to withdraw the remaining U.S. ground forces from Afghanistan, calmly ask those criticizing his decision, “How many troops are we talking about?,” and see how close they get to the actual number, 2,500 — down from over 100,000 during the Obama Administration. A good follow-up question might be, “Can 2,500 troops really accomplish our primary strategic objectives?” That will spark a wide-ranging discussion of our strategic objectives, prompting critics of Biden’s decision to call for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan, a pricey option for a nation that is assuming a couple trillion dollars in expenses we didn’t forsee a year ago. “The simplest explanation of the US goal in Afghanistan is to keep it from again becoming a hotbed for terror groups like al Qaeda. When the US left Iraq, for instance, the power vaccum helped lead to the rise of ISIS there,” Zachary B. Wolf writes at CNN Politics. “But what the US has been trying to accomplish in Afghanistan, and the strategy to do it, has changed with each president.” There are some strong arguments for a continued and increased military forces in Afghanistan, most of them rooted in human rights, particularly for women. But, Biden, a former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has carefully weighed the cost/benefit ratio, after consulting with the top military and economic analysts. The U.S. D.O.D. estimates that the U.S. has spent $778 billion in Afghanistan from Oct. 2001 to Septmeber 2019. The New York Times reported that “the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion.” The human toll includes, 2,300 American soldiers killed, and many more wounded. That’s a lot of heartbreak, with few measurable accomplishments. When it comes to military budget cuts, Afghanistan looks like low-hanging fruit.

In his article, “Few Americans Who Identify As Independent Are Actually Independent. That’s Really Bad For Politics,” Geoffrey Skeeley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “The share of Americans who say they’re independent has climbed considerably, according to Gallup’s quarterly party affiliation data. In the late 1980s, roughly one-third of Americans identified as Democratic, Republican or independent. Now, 40 percent or more identify as independent, while the share who identify as Democrats or Republicans has fallen to around 30 percent or lower, as the chart below shows….The problem is that few independents are actually independent. Roughly 3 in 4 independents still lean toward one of the two major political parties, and studies show that these voters aren’t all that different from the voters in the party they lean toward. Independents who lean toward a party also tend to back that party at almost the same rate as openly partisan voters….The abandonment of voters openly identifying with one of the two parties has led to less political engagement, which means Americans are exerting less influence on what the parties look and sound like. That’s a real problem since the parties are still the fundamental building blocks that organize our politics. But with party building left to more stringent partisans, the parties’ bases have largely cultivated candidates who tend to be more ideologically extreme than the voters they seek to represent.” We know that Republicans are stuck in an inflexible commitment to Trumpism. Democrats also have room to strengthen their party’s image and brand, far more flexibility than the GOP — and much to gain by doing so.

“Without a dramatic change in the rules governing the filibuster,” Walter Shapiro writes in “The Case for the Talking Filibuster” at The New Republic. “Democrats have no chance of passing the ambitious voting rights bill known as the “For the People Act” that has already won approval in the House. The same is true for legislation that would enact gun control and raise the minimum wage….The C-SPAN cameras are the biggest X-factor in assessing the strategic merits of a talking filibuster. The first few days of a talking filibuster—especially if you add the drama of an all-night session or two—could attract a sizable audience. And if the Republicans were opposing a voting rights bill, it would be instructive to hear their arguments as fatigue stripped away their masquerade that they are defenders of election integrity….Let’s be honest—there are no guarantees that McConnell can be defeated as long as it takes 60 votes to shut off Senate debate. But the other options open to the Democrats are bleak in a 50–50 Senate. That is true whether the legislation is to protect voting rights, promote gun safety, or provide a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A talking filibuster may not be a panacea. But at least it would require Republicans to put their mouths where their money is.”

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