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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Hugo Lowell reports at The Guardian: “Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition….The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote….Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter…Ending the use of the filibuster for constitutional measures – and lowering the threshold to pass legislation to a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate – is significant as it would almost certainly pave the way for Democrats to expand voting across the US….Democrats open to making the change have previously indicated that their argument that the minority party should not have the power to repeatedly block legislation with widespread support resonates with the wider American public….“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” the Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley wrote on Twitter after Republicans blocked S1, illustrating the sentiment. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.””

From Simone Pathe’s “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022” at CNN Politcs: “The fight for control of the evenly divided Senate will be the most dramatic showdown of 2022, and based on the candidates who have jumped in so far — and those who are expected to — there are a few changes to this month’s ranking of the Senate seats most likely to flip partisan control….Pennsylvania — an open-seat race in a state that President Joe Biden carried in 2020 — remains the most likely to flip. But four other states have moved around slightly….Two other Biden states are trading places, with New Hampshire leapfrogging above Nevada. It’s true that Biden carried the Granite State by a wider margin, but the potential GOP candidate options there are enough to move it above the Silver State for now. Of course, that could change if two big name Republicans in New Hampshire pass on the race….Two Trump states are also switching spots. Florida is now above Ohio in terms of likelihood of flipping. Democrats have done better recently at the presidential level in Florida than they have in Ohio, and that’s all the more relevant now that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is running against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Democrats already had a candidate in Ohio — Rep. Tim Ryan — but the increasingly red state is tougher terrain for the party. However, this is fluid — it’s still possible that the messy GOP primary in the Buckeye State will be just the opening Democrats need.” Pathe provides a detailed run-down for each of the states.

In his New York Times Column, “Lean in to it. Lean into the Culture War,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Should responsibility for the rampant polarization that characterizes American politics today be laid at the feet of liberals or conservatives? I posed that question to my friend Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal….He emailed me his reply:

It is fair to say that the proponents of cultural change have been mostly on offense since Brown v. the Board of Education, while the defenders of the status quo have been on defense.

Once the conflict enters the political arena, though, other factors come into play, Galston argues:

Intensity makes a huge difference, and on many of the cultural issues, including guns and immigration, the right is more intense than the left.

Galston put it like this:

When being “right” on a cultural controversy becomes a threshold issue for an intense minority, it can drive the party much farther to the left or right than its median voter.

Along with intensity, another driving force in escalating polarization, in Galston’s view, is elite behavior:

Newt Gingrich believed that the brand of politics Bob Michel practiced had contributed to House Republicans’ 40-year sojourn in the political desert. Gingrich decided to change this, starting with Republicans’ vocabulary and tactics. This proved effective, but at the cost of rising incivility and declining cooperation between the political parties. Once the use of terms such as “corruption,” “disgrace” and “traitor” becomes routine in Congress, the intense personal antipathy these words express is bound to trickle down to rank-and-file party identifiers.

The race and gender issues that have come to play such a central role in American politics are rooted in the enormous changes in society from the 1950s to the 1970s, Galston wrote:

The United States in the early 1950s resembled the country as it had been for decades. By the early 1970s, everything had changed, stunning Americans who had grown up in what seemed to them to be a stable, traditional society and setting the stage for a conservative reaction. Half a century after the Scopes trial, evangelical Protestantism re-entered the public square and soon became an important build-block of the coalition that brought Ronald Reagan to power.

Edsall also quotes Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker: “It strains credulity to argue that Democrats have been pushing culture-war issues more than Republicans. It’s mostly Republican elites who have accentuated these issues to attract more and more working-class white voters even as they pursue a plutocratic economic agenda that’s unpopular among those voters. Certainly, Biden has not focused much on cultural issues since entering office — his key agenda items are all bread-and-butter economic policies. Meanwhile, we have Republicans making critical race theory and transgender sports into big political issues (neither of which, so far as I can tell, hardly mattered to voters at all before they were elevated by right-wing media and the G.O.P.).” Edsall adds, “There is substantial evidence in support of Hacker’s argument that Republican politicians and strategists have led the charge in raising hot-button issues….If right-wing manipulation of cultural and racial issues does end up backfiring, that will defy the long history of the Republican Party’s successful deployment of divisive wedge issues — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush to Donald Trump. Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that the half-life of these radioactive topics is longer than expected, and Democrats, if they want to protect their fragile majority, must be doubly careful not to hand their adversaries ever more powerful weapons.”

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