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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall provides a data-driven analysis of the role of education in reducing and widening inequality, and addresses crititical questions for national and local education policy and political debate, “Is education no longer “a great equalizer of the conditions of men,” as Horace Mann declared in 1848, but instead a great divider? Can the Biden administration’s efforts to distribute cash benefits to the working class and the poor produce sustained improvements in the lives of those on the bottom tiers of income and wealth — or would a substantial investment in children’s training and enrichment programs at a very early age produce more consistent and permanent results? Edsall givs the data a rigorous workout and concludes, “Education, training in cognitive and noncognitive skills, nutrition, health care and parenting are all among the building blocks of human capital, and evidence suggests that continuing investments that combat economic hardship among whites and minorities — and which help defuse debilitating conflicts over values, culture and race — stand the best chance of reversing the disarray and inequality that plague our political system and our social order.”

Benjamin Swasey reports at npr.com that “A bipartisan group of senators is “very, very close” to an agreement on a deal for an infrastructure package, Ohio Republican Rob Portman told Capitol Hill reporters Wednesday, and President Biden has invited the group to the White House Thursday….The invitation follows meetings between White House advisers and the group of senators Wednesday….on June 10, a group of five Republicans and five Democrats announced they had agreed on the contours of a package: some $1.2 trillion in spending over eight years, but less than half that in new spending.” As always the key disagreements center around financing infrastructure improvements. As Swasey notes, “A key sticking point has been how to pay for the measure, with Republicans opposed to undoing any of their 2017 tax cuts, and Biden against raising the gas tax….Portman told reporters the group has “a balanced group of pay-fors,” but did not go into more detail.” However, “The bipartisan infrastructure talks are on one track. Meanwhile, Democrats are eyeing a second, much larger package that would include spending on climate and education and pass along party lines, via the Senate’s budget reconciliation process….Senate Democrats have begun the budget process that would allow such a measure to move through the chamber.”

“So what is the way forward? Both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will have to come up with a new understanding of what their pledgesto save the filibuster mean,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. “They’re not being asked to abandon the filibuster altogether. They are being called upon to accept that if the current rule is left unchanged, partisan majorities in Republican states will be able to make it harder to vote while Democrats in Washington render themselves powerless to do anything about it…Manchin got an object lesson in the futility of seeking GOP votes when Schumer invited him to slim down the For the People Act. Manchin proposed jettisoning many parts of the bill that Republicans don’t like and even endorsed voter-ID requirements, which Republicans have championed….McConnell’s response to Manchin’s efforts? He said the compromise bill had a “rotten core.” How many GOP slaps in the face will Manchin accept?….Memo to Democrats: Curbing the power of big money in politics is very popular.” Also, Dionne notes, “There are many ways to reform the filibuster without getting rid of it, including one proposed a decade ago by … Joe Manchin. Both Norm Ornstein, the congressional scholar, and former senator Tom Harkin have suggested approaches that would place a heavier burden on the minority trying to block action.”

Zachary B. Wolf explains why “Crime is becoming one of America’s biggest political issues” at CNN Politics: “The post-reopening murder wave is about to become a major subject of conversation. Murders have gone up in 2021, and the summer — high season for homicide — is just getting started….This new societal crisis is already turning political….Republicans are likely to carry the perception of the nation’s cities overrun by crime into the 2022 midterm elections….The political divide on crime will grow as Biden and Democrats focus on guns, which are involved in most murders, as the root of the problem, and Republicans blame liberal mayors and governors and lax attitudes toward policing. “We will make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets,” Biden said on Wednesday….Wolf adds, “Violent crime is up. Violent crime and murder rates are certainly up around the country compared to recent years (crime, more generally, is often down)….Murder rates, already creeping up from a low of 4.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2014, certainly increased during and now after the pandemic….The national murder rate of around five murders per 100,000 people in 2019 — is about half its all time recorded high in 1980, when more than 10 Americans for every 100,000 were murdered. Covid, by comparison, has killed more than 183 Americans per 100,000 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.” In terms of the Democratic response, Wolf writes that Biden “plans to sign executive actions with a particular focus on tamping down gun crimes, according to officials who spoke with reporters Tuesday night, and again called on Congress to take steps to enact new gun control laws. Senior administration officials also told reporters Tuesday evening that Biden’s plan will rely on using American Rescue Plan dollars for more flexible applications, including hiring law enforcement above pre-pandemic levels or using the funds toward community violence intervention programs.”

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