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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Among the reasons why Democrats may not lose their House  and Senate majorities, according to John Harwood at CNN Politics: “Earlier this year, Biden’s political team dismissed old patterns as irrelevant to the unique backdrop for his presidency: a once-in-a-century pandemic, the world’s largest economy turned off and then back on again, a violent insurrection incited by a historically divisive, defeated President. Swift passage of Covid relief spending, a quick vaccination ramp-up, and resurgent growth helped keep Biden consistently above the 50% approval mark Donald Trump never reached….Biden’s advantages haven’t entirely vanished. His economic advisers last week forecast 2021 economic growth of 7%. The Census recorded a higher-than-expected increase in the non-white population, which favors Democrats politically….The unpopular ex-President remains at the center of Republican politics. While Trump has a weak track record for lifting Republican candidates when he’s not on the ballot, he helps motivate Democratic voters….In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden hailed House passage of his economic investment framework before addressing evacuation efforts in Kabul. His pandemic response team pressed businesses and other institutions to overcome lingering resistance by mandating vaccinations for employment and services.”

Harwood continues, “The political value of those efforts, aside from their merits for public health and economic vitality, is in unifying the Democratic electoral coalition while Republicans aim to splinter it with cultural wedge issues. Their longshot hopes of surviving in power next November depend on maximizing unity….”Winning a midterm is extremely difficult,” said David Shor, an influential Democratic strategist. “Big picture, the Biden administration is making all the right strategic decisions….Other elements involve spending on longer-term projects such as improving roads and bridges and expanding early childhood education. If Democrats manage to enact them, near-term political credit turns on how much public attention they receive by Election Day…..”It’s just a question of how much the media decides to cover it,” Shor observed….To the White House and Democratic leaders, the critical variable is action. Mobilizing bare majorities to break through years of stalemate, they say, can give Democrats a fighting chance despite the President’s political bruises….”Victories that help real people — working families and small businesses,” the Biden adviser said. “Not about what we want to do, about what we’ve done.”

Also at CNN Politics, Gregory Krieg takes a deep dive and explains that “Biden is holding together the Democratic Party in Washington — for now,” and writes, “That the fates of the two bills, one championed by moderate Democrats and the other by progressives, are tied together is in itself a neat metaphor for the broader dynamic influencing the party’s path in the Biden era, as it seeks to show it can deliver for the American people ahead of next year’s midterms. Neither package has enough support to pass in the House of Representatives without disparate factions of Democrats agreeing to vote for legislation they would not, under other circumstances, be inclined to back. Democrats are, in sum, doing the work of a coalition government — the kind of fraught, patchwork majority more typically found in the parliamentary democracies of Western Europe….To advance any and all pieces of their shared agenda, Democrats need unanimity in their Senate ranks and can only afford to lose a handful of votes in the House….After the agreement was in place, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, summed up the fundamental political incentives that carried the day. “The most important thing is, as Democrats, we remain united behind the objectives that have been set by President Biden,” Jeffries said. “Democracy is messy, and Democrats are not a cult, we’re a coalition….The oddsmakers’ favorite to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in leading the Democratic caucus if she retires in the coming years, Jeffries, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has often flown the moderate flag on the front lines of the intra-party electoral fights. Some have played out in parallel to Democrats’ work in Washington….But even as the left lines up its challengers and moderates prepare to launch a well-funded counteroffensive, they were ultimately pushing for the same legislative outcome on Capitol Hill, even if they used different methods and messages — including outside attacks against each other — to get there.”

Krieg adds, “The larger, partisan bill that will need to be passed through the budget reconciliation process, would — according to its early framework — create a universal pre-K program for 3- and 4-year-olds, offer new child care benefits to working families and, for the first time, eventually provide a federal guarantee of paid parental, family and personal illness leave. In addition to measures designed to curb climate change and invest in affordable housing, it would also increase subsidies for Obamacare and, after so many years of debate and advocacy, lower prescription drug prices and expand Medicare — lowering the eligibility age while beefing up the popular program to include dental, vision and hearing benefits….Taken together, the legislation would represent the largest and most consequential expansion of aid and protections to the social safety net in a generation. For many on the left, it also amounts to a marker of the movement’s growing influence….Though progressives still lag other factions of the party in terms of representation in Congress, Biden and his team have, since he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee in 2020, worked relentlessly to build a working relationship with the left and its energetic base….Sanders, his closest competitor and the final rival to fall on Biden’s late surge to the nomination, has returned the favor. Ascending to the chair of the Senate Budget Committee after the Democrats, with whom he caucuses, won their Senate majority, Sanders has worked closely with the White House, even as some of his top campaign priorities, like “Medicare for all,” have been sidelined….The White House, in turn, has provided a backstop for progressives during the push to get both of the party’s legislative priorities over the line. When the group of nine Democrats demanding an immediate House vote on the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill said Biden shared their desire, the White House knocked them back….”(Biden) has been clear that he wants both bills on his desk and that he looks forward to signing each,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told NBC News on Monday, adding that the President supported Pelosi’s broader approach to steering the White House agenda….Democrats — whose majority is only as useful as their near unanimity — appear to be on a path to fulfilling Biden’s ambitious framework. The party has shown, to date, that it can be both in “disarray” and a functioning operation — and that the imperative to act, in coalition, appears to be winning the day.”

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