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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz addresses a pivotal question for the midterm elections and beyond: “Can Democrats Win Back the White Working Class?” Abramowitz argues that “Appealing to the economic interests of white non-college voters may not be enough for Democrats to win back their support….In this article, I use evidence from the 2020 American National Election Study to examine the effects of various political attitudes on the candidate preferences of college and non-college white voters in the 2020 presidential election. In line with the arguments of racial resentment theorists, I find that economic insecurity had very little impact on white voter decision-making in 2020. However, I find that the rejection of the Democratic Party by white working class voters goes beyond racial resentment alone. Instead, I find that support for Donald Trump among white working class voters reflected conservative views across a wide range of policy issues including social welfare issues, cultural issues, racial justice issues, gun control, immigration, and climate change. In other words, the rejection of the Democratic Party by white working class voters is fundamentally ideological. This fact makes it very unlikely that Democrats will be able to win back large numbers of white working class voters by appealing to their economic self-interest.” Abramowitz cites data and provides charts which indicate “clear evidence that white working class voters tend to support conservative policies in every major issue domain, not just a few. They are just as conservative, if not more conservative, on traditional social welfare issues involving the size and role of government as they are on newer cultural issues such as abortion and gay rights. Most importantly, the across-the-board conservatism of white working class voters goes a long way toward explaining their current support for the Republican Party….These findings indicate that efforts by Democratic leaders to win back the support of white working class voters who have been voting for Republican candidates in recent years by appealing to their economic interests or shifting to the right on issues like immigration and gay rights are unlikely to bear much fruit. Moreover, tacking to the right to win votes from a shrinking population of white working class voters might turn off large numbers of college educated white voters with liberal views on these issues.”

In her Los Angeles Times article, “Young voters turned out in force for Democrats in 2020. Will they stick around?,” Janet Hook writes that young voters “will be key to the Democratic Party’s ability to keep control of Congress in 2022. Many young people were spurred to vote by anger toward former President Trump, but much more is driving them….These young Democratic voters have produced a new wave of grass-roots activism, inspired less by candidates than by their passion for issues that their generation thrust to the fore such as racial justice, gun safety and climate change….“I’ve never seen the activism I’ve seen among young people,” said Luis Sánchez, executive director of Power California, a political group that organizes young people of color. “This growing awareness and civic engagement is engagement that goes beyond voting.”….A survey of young people by the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics in March found 36% said they were politically active or engaged — even higher than the 24% who said they were engaged after President Obama’s 2008 election. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University found in a 2020 poll that 31% of people ages 18 to 24 had participated in a march or demonstration, up from 5% in 2016. They didn’t just march; they voted. The 2020 surge of young voters — turning out at an even higher rate and in larger numbers than for Obama in 2008 — overwhelmingly favored Democrats….Democrats’ advantage among young voters is of relatively recent vintage. Before most millennials qualified to vote — in the 2000 presidential election and most elections back to 1972 — young voters split about evenly between the parties. That changed in 2004, when Democrat John Kerry won 54% of the youth vote. Since then, Democrats’ edge has grown. That is partly a reflection of a demographic shift over the last 20 years.

Hook continues, “Voters younger than 40 are the most racially and ethnically diverse generations in American history: About 45% of millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) and nearly half of Gen Zers (born after 1996) are people of color, compared with 30% of baby boomers….Ironically, the pandemic may have helped facilitate higher levels of political engagement among young people. The ways states tried to limit the virus’ spread by making it easier to vote were especially useful for first-time voters who are often baffled by registration and ballot processes….That could change in 2022, because many new state voting laws are repealing the pandemic-era changes and implementing other provisions — such as stricter voter ID and residency requirements — that will make it harder for young people to register in college towns. Rock the Vote, a group focused on getting young Americans to the polls, is stepping up its education efforts on how to navigate these new requirements….In Georgia, the group is teaming up with professional sports teams and celebrities to promote voter education in Atlanta’s high schools, sponsoring a curriculum designed to inform teenagers even before they are old enough to vote….The pandemic shutdown also proved to be an incubator of political activism and ambition.“ Young people really took advantage of their time and used the internet as a medium for spreading activism,” said Osirus Polachart, a 23-year-old student at UC Berkeley. Those efforts did not end just because Trump left the White House.”

“Democrats’ hopes of including a path to citizenship for the 8 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US in their upcoming budget reconciliation bill were dashed by a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian,” Nicole Narea writes at Vox. “It’s certainly a setback, given that reconciliation looked like their best chance to pass immigration reform this year, but it doesn’t mean that immigration reform has reached a dead end….Democrats have several immediate options, including presenting the parliamentarian with alternative proposals, overruling the parliamentarian, or resuming bipartisan negotiations on narrow immigration policies that at least some Republicans might find palatable….But while any one of those paths could yield urgent protections for at least some groups of immigrants, none presents the opportunity to meaningfully modernize the US’s broken immigration system to meet America’s changing demographic and economic needs. In the long run, Democrats will likely need to build consensus around immigration issues beyond their own ranks and pass broader legislation with Republican support….Democrats are planning to field alternative immigration proposals before the parliamentarian in the hopes of inclusion in their reconciliation bill….One proposal is to update the “immigration registry.” Under the registry, if an immigrant has been living in the US since before a certain date, they are eligible to apply for permanent residence under federal law, regardless of whether they overstayed a visa or entered the US without authorization. But that date hasn’t been updated in decades. It’s currently January 1, 1972….Another option would be to set a “rolling” cutoff date that automatically adjusts, perhaps advancing by one year annually or creating an eligibility standard requiring a certain number of years of continuously residing in the US. Democrats could also propose a similar change to an existing law known as Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows a family member or employer to apply for a green card on behalf of an undocumented immigrant….Democrats could also propose a similar change to an existing law known as Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows a family member or employer to apply for a green card on behalf of an undocumented immigrant. It’s essentially obsolete at this point because only applications filed before April 30, 2001, were accepted. But Democrats could advance that date. Given that more than 8 million US citizens have at least one undocumented family member living with them, that small date change could have big implications.”

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