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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Amy Walter shares a warning in “An Update on the California Recall” at The Cook Political Report.” Walter writes that “the latest fivethirtyeight.com polling average shows “No” on the recall only slightly ahead of “Yes” to recall 50.6 percent to 46.3 percent….While Democrats are unified in opposition to the recall, they are much less interested in voting than Republicans. For example, a mid-July survey from UC Berkeley-IGS found 91 percent of Democrats opposed to the recall. An early August YouGov/CBS poll found Democratic opposition at 85 percent. As a point of comparison, a PPIC poll taken two months before the 2003 Gray Davis recall found just 56 percent of Democrats opposed to recalling the Democratic governor. However, in both the UC Berkeley-IGS and YouGov/CBS surveys, Democratic enthusiasm to vote lagged behind GOP support for the recall. In the UC-Berkeley survey, 93 percent of Trump voters, but only 76 percent of Biden voters said they were very interested in voting in the recall. In the CBS/YouGov survey, 72 percent of Republicans but just 61 percent of Democrats said they were “very motivated to vote” on September 14.” Walter adds, “Turns out that conditions on both COVID and wildfires worsened much earlier than expected. The Delta resurgence and fears of another economic gut punch to the state provide a ripe environment for the recall. Angry and frustrated people vote. Disillusioned ones don’t.” However, walter concludes, “This race is still Newsom/No on Recall’s to lose. Newsom and Democrats have the advantages of registration, money and organization, but the Yes forces/GOP have the benefit of an energized base and a more favorable political environment than they’ve had in the previous couple of years. We are moving the race from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic. This isn’t to say that the race has suddenly become more competitive this week. It’s more to say that the race REMAINS competitive with just over two weeks to go.”

Will the Supreme Court decision trashing reproductive rights in Texas spark a new campaign to expand the size of the high court? Probably not. But it should. Women’s rights activists are rightly worried that the Republican justices are ready to green light the hard right’s all-out assault on what’s left of Roe v. Wade. Of course there were good reasons to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court even before this latest ruling, including concerns about voting rights and worker rights and a broad range of social and economic issues. From “Trump’s Supreme Court just showed why court-packing is necessary to save U.S. democracy: Law professor Stephen Feldman explains why court-packing should be defended on both moral and political grounds” by Amanda Marcotte at salon.com: “University of Wyoming law professor Stephen Feldman, however, thinks now is the perfect time to revive the discussion, arguing that court-packing is a vital necessity to save our democracy….In his new book “Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion,” Feldman argues that not only is court expansion politically wise, it also fits in with a long history of seeing the courts not as separate from politics, but working within a political system.’ Feldman adds, “The Roberts court is extremely conservative and that’s even before Justice Ginsburg passed away and the Republicans rushed through the confirmation of Justice Barrett. They keep handing down very conservative decisions, one after another. And really the only way to counter that is the court-packing….Let’s say somehow the Democrats did pass some type of voting rights protections, a new statute protecting voting rights. The odds are extremely high that this court would find some way to strike down that voting rights legislation….I don’t think anything is likely to happen right now unless the filibuster were eliminated. What needs to happen is the filibuster needs to go.” Of course, Democrats have the Mancin/Sinema opposition to killing the filibuster. But what would happen if politically-moderate women in West Virginia and Arizona organize to compel Sens. Mancin and Sinema to reconsider, now that it’s clear that the GOP’s ill-gotten high court majority is ready to reverse a half-century of consensus on reproductive rights?

At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner shares a ‘calm down everyone’ balm in his article, “How Much Trouble Is Biden In? The picture is likely to look better in a few months’ time.” Regarding the decline of Biden’s approval rates, Kuttner notes, “Even after the ignominious collapse, an AP poll on August 19 found that 62 percent of Americans believed that the Afghan War had not been worth fighting. And since it was Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, who commenced the troop drawdown and committed plans for total withdrawal by mid-2021, it’s not likely that the current debacle will do lasting damage….According to an August 17 Ipsos poll, 64 percent of Americans support their state or local government requiring masks to be worn in public spaces, and that includes 44 percent of Republicans. Fully 69 percent support such mandates for teachers and students, and two-thirds oppose state prohibitions on local mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the champion of such prohibitions, may be a hero to the conservative base, but broad public opinion is moving away from him….There is wide support for most of Biden’s policies, and Biden is seen as likable. The puzzle is why more of this doesn’t rub off on Biden. But polls bounce around and are known for anomalies and cognitive inconsistencies….I don’t have a crystal ball, but it seems to me that six months from now, as we begin the midterm election year, Biden will be looking pretty good. The internal splits between the progressives and the Gang of Nine will get nastier; and primary season will enflame these tensions. At the same time, neither the left nor the center wants to be responsible for destroying Biden’s core agenda. At the end of the day, even as soon as October, some version of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation is likely to pass….by early 2022, most Americans will have had their booster shots, and people will have adjusted to a new normal of intermittent masks and great care with indoor events. It beats dying. Public opinion on the management of the pandemic is likely to be on Biden’s side….And in 2022, the fissures in the Republican Party, both ideological and personal, will be more in evidence. Trump will not be on the ballot; that could be a plus or a minus. But he will do useful damage in ousting electable Republicans in swing districts.” However, Kuttner warns, “If we don’t get voting rights, Biden and his program could be popular, but the Republicans aided by the Supreme Court could still steal the 2022 election and the future of our democracy.” Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

At The Washington Monthly, Luisa S. Deprez explains “How Republicans Stoke Anti-Government Hatred: Tearing down faith in the common good has helped the GOP for years, but it’s killing the country.” As Deprez writes, “In At War with Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump  (Columbia University Press, 2021), [Amy] Fried and [Douglas B.] Harris provide a powerful exegesis of American politics and explain how conservative elites have cultivated a toxic distrust of government. This is not a traditional conservative argument about levels of spending and taxation or American commitments abroad. It means playing on the fears of citizens that their government is corrupt, undemocratic, elitist and their enemy. This, they contend, is “the fundamental strategy of conservative Republican politics.” It relies “on public dissatisfaction to build their movement, to win elections, to engage in separation-of-powers conflicts, and to thwart liberal policy advances.” Sometimes leaders struggle to control those they roused. Sometimes they egg them on. And whether implicit or overt, racism and xenophobia are essential components to these efforts….Fried and Harris contend that the weaponization of distrust undermines Americans’ ability to achieve collective goals. Michael Sandel, who teaches political philosophy at Harvard echoes that sentiment: “Any hope of renewing our moral and civic life depends on understanding how, over … decades, our social bonds and respect for one another came unraveled.” The charge, he says, is “to find our way to a politics of the common good.”…Unlike most books of this sort, Fried and Harris trace a path forward, presenting suggestions for countering Republicans’ promotion of political distrust. There are ways to “make peace with government” they argue, even after questioning whether the partisan polarization is reversible and racial animus can soften….The Biden administration is promoting plans that leave no one untouched. These strategies are bold, daring, and expansive. Now, political leaders and activists must be intentional in the message they deliver to the American public—these are public, governmental efforts. “

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    If we want our public to trust our government, the first thing we need is a trustworthy government. As it is, though, we have a Department of Justice which sells guns to Mexican drug gangs who use them to murder hundreds of people. We have an FBI who will lie to the FISA Court to wiretap politicians they dislike. We have a Securities and Exchange Commission who can ensure that I display an SIPC sign in my office but let Bernard Madoff swindle investors out of eighteen BILLION dollars right under their noses. We have an IRS who will harass a President’s political critics and when called to account for this, take the Fifth Amendment and get away with it. If Fried and Harris think public distrust of government stems from “racism and xenophobia”, that must be because, as professors of political science, they think people in government do what they are supposed to do.


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