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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “Democrats: Political suicide is not a strategy,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes about curent divisions among Democrats regarding the Build Back Better  and physical infrastructure bills: “…The ugly process and the relentless focus on the bill’s current $3.5 trillion price tag are taking a toll and feeding other misunderstandings. Only rarely is it pointed out that this is spent out over 10 years and thus amounts to just 1.2 percent of the economy. Worse, the focus on a single abstract total means little attention to what the Build Back Better initiatives would actually do — for children, families, education, health care, housing and climate.” However, “When Democrats allow a debate to be only about a number,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a leading moderate, said in an interview, “it’s like talking about a Christmas party and only discussing the hangover.” Dionne notes, “Substantively, added Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), starting the discussion this way gets things exactly backward. “We should work from what policies we want to enact,” he said, “rather than an arbitrary number.”….Biden has been pressing Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and other more conservative Democrats to be specific about what they do and don’t want in a final package.”

Dionne adds, “At his news conference on Friday, Biden said this was a central theme in his meetings with congressional Democrats this past week. “Forget a number,” Biden told them. “What do you think we should be doing?” He added that when some of his interlocutors listed all their priorities, they discovered that “it adds up to a number higher than they said they were for.”….Here’s one more misconception: the idea that all middle-of-the-road Democrats are of the same mind. In fact, most House Democrats, including many moderates, agree with the original goal of passing the Senate’s bipartisan physical infrastructure bill in tandem with the larger Build Back Better bill…..House Democrats eager for a quick vote on the bipartisan bill hinted this weekend that they were willing to show short-term patience in the interest of longer-term success. Biden should be ready to encourage them down this path….In my ideal world, we would spend more than $3.5 trillion, given how much needs to be done to give low- and middle-income Americans what Biden called “a little breathing room.”….But in the world as it exists, compromise is likely to require something smaller. That’s okay. What would not be okay: for Democrats to walk away from the best opportunity they have had in at least two generations to repair and reconstruct our nation’s social contract. Despite all their grousing, I think they know that.”

At CNN Politics, John Blake explains “How voter suppression laws hurt White people,” and shares some message points Democrats may want to distill and leverage in the months ahead: “White people — not just people of color — have been some of the biggest victims of voter suppression tactics….The Republican Party’s crusade to make voting more difficult isn’t just morally wrong. It’s folly. By obsessively chasing the phantom of widespread voter fraud, they are actually hurting their own base of White voters….Some of the more obvious boomerang effects of these laws have already been noted. Voter restrictions anger and mobilize voters of color. They make it more difficult for older, rural White citizens to vote. And they discourage some White voters from even participating in elections….Even some GOP leaders are now warning that restrictive voting laws are hurting their base. One commentator went further, saying Republicans are “inadvertently suppressing their own voters.”….States that enacted partisan gerrymandering — redrawing congressional districts to favor the Republican party and deprive Black people of voting power — tended to have higher infant mortality rates, Keena says. They also were more likely to challenge the Affordable Care Act in courts and were generally less responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 than Republican-controlled states that didn’t gerrymander, he found…..There is a phrase that describes what happens to some White voters in states like Mississippi. It’s called “Dying of Whiteness” — the name of a 2019 book by Jonathan M. Metzl that describes a political dynamic where racial, “backlash governance” leads to White voters picking political leaders who enact policies that tend to make them sicker, poorer and more likely to die early by gun suicide….This same dynamic is partly why most of the counties in the US with the fewest fully vaccinated people are in Southern states led by GOP governors…..”When state governments rig the voting rules to suppress the voting power of their opponents, there are measurable decreases in public health and policy outcomes that affect everyone,” Keena says.”

Blake continues, “Republican leaders who seek to restrict voting rights also hurt themselves by turning off young White voters who could make the difference for them in future elections….Some GOP leaders make an effort to appeal to young voters, but their party’s voter restriction laws send another message: We don’t want you to vote….This message hurts young White voters by breeding political cynicism and apathy, says Mary A. Evins, coordinator for the American Democracy Project, a program that encourages civic engagement among youth. She says “the big chunk” of White voters impacted by voter restriction laws are the youngest voters….The Democrats’ voting overhaul bill would address many of Evins’ concerns. The new bill would make Election Day a public holiday, make it easier to register to vote, ensure states have early voting for federal elections and allow all voters to request mail-in ballots.” Blake reminds his readers that “The civil rights movement that swept away the apartheid system in the South also helped White people. The fall of Jim Crow lifted the economy of the entire South. It raised the standard of living for White people as new Southern leaders abandoned racial demagoguery to invest more in social services, education and public works that benefitted everyone, Whites included.” Sponsors of voter suppression legislation do their best to target Black voters, who have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years. But, as Blake argues, the collateral damage of racially-motivated voter suppression inadvertently includes many white, conservative-leaning voters as well. Democrats would be smart to hone their messaging to show white voters how they too are being ripped off by Republican voter suppression legislation.

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