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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “How Democrats can rebuild their ‘blue wall’ in the Midwest” by John Austin at The Hill: “Popular perceptions aside, and as I have written before, today there is no monolithic Midwestern “Rust Belt” of struggling manufacturing and mill towns. There was once a common economic storyline among the small, mid-sized and large manufacturing communities strung through the fields, forests and along the rivers and lakefronts of the upper Midwest….But this manufacturing-based economy, rocked by globalization, technological change and new competitors has undergone decades of restructuring. and in some places the total disappearance of manufacturing plants and their well-paying jobs. Communities have struggled to adapt….These small and medium-sized factory towns have outsized political influence. In Michigan and Wisconsin, for example, more than half of the voting population resides in the smaller and midsize manufacturing communities….And as the report by Midwestern Democratic strategists Richard Martin, David Wilhelm and Mike Lux documents, in the communities that have seen the most severe manufacturing job loss, the ground is fertile for a nationalist, nostalgic and populist appeal of the kind offered by Donald Trump….Why is this? Residents of struggling industrial communities are responsive to the messages of leaders who identify with them and against urban elites — leaders who promise to bring back the industries that once provided well-paying jobs, and blame trade deals and immigrants for their community’s woes….And this populist message can come from the left or the right. Both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (who did very well in Midwest factory town communities in the 2016 primary, defeating Hillary Clinton outright in Michigan) offered a politics of resentment — essentially a message that says: “you are getting screwed and someone else is getting theirs at your expense.”

Austin adds, that “the report notes that the Midwest mirrors the nation’s voting trends, with Democrats gaining votes in recent years in the bigger cities and their suburbs while losing votes in rural areas. But according to the report, the biggest losses came in the small and midsize industrial communities that shed manufacturing jobs (and the good health care that goes with them) during the past eight years. More than 2.6 million fewer Democratic votes in 2020 versus 2012 came from once solidly blue Democratic strongholds such Chippewa Falls, Wis., and Bay City, Mich….Strategists worry that without the polarizing presence of Trump on the ballot (at least in 2022), suburban moderate Republicans, repelled by Trump, may return to their party. Absent these votes in key Midwest congressional districts, the Democrats’ electoral goose may be cooked….there is also compelling evidence that where former “Rust Belt” communities find new economic footing, the lure of resentful populism wanes as residents grow more optimistic about the future….This has been the case in the Midwest. Residents of industrial communities that have made the transition to a new economy exhibit different attitudes and voting patterns than those in communities that still struggle. Resurgent industrial communities, such as Pittsburgh, Pa., and Grand Rapids, Mich., as well several smaller Midwest former industrial communities that have turned an economic corner, see powerful trends away from nationalism and nostalgia and towards moderate centrism. This was true in both the 2018 midterm elections and in the November 2020 election results — when once solidly Republican counties such as Kent County, Mich., home to newly thriving Grand Rapids, went for both a Democratic governor and President Biden….What working-class voters want to hear from Democratic leaders is: “We see you. We understand why you are upset with the conditions of your community. You and your community and future success are a national priority. We are here to support and offer resources for you to build your own future.”….Only then can Democrats begin to rebuild the blue wall.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman share some insights about bellwether Virginia’s gubernatorial race, including: “Though the McAuliffe campaign has worked relentlessly to tie Youngkin to Trump, an unpopular figure in the commonwealth who has endorsed Youngkin several times, President Biden’s weakened approval ratings weigh on Democrats. Congressional Democrats’ lack of action on big-item legislation, specifically on infrastructure and social spending, also seems to be dampening enthusiasm among their rank-and-file voters….The down-ballot races will probably be linked closely with the top of the ticket, with the state House of Delegates up for grabs in addition to the other statewide offices….While early voting is down a good deal compared to last year’s presidential race, as expected, it is hard to draw firm conclusions from these totals because the lion’s share of Virginians have traditionally voted on Election Day, aside from last year during the pandemic….So the early/mail vote share has already surpassed all of 2017, when early/mail-in voting was much harder to do in Virginia, but the pace is likely behind 2020 at a comparable point of the election. Given a trend toward Democrats preferring to vote early and Republicans preferring to vote in-person, one could see this as alarming for Democrats — and it may indeed represent a lack of Democratic enthusiasm in the post-Trump era. On the other hand, Virginia has such little tradition of early/mail voting — and voters may be more comfortable voting in-person despite the pandemic compared to a year ago — that it’s possible many voters from both parties are just going to vote on Election Day even if they voted early a year ago.”

Former President Trump finally came up with a good idea, and he should be reminded of it repeatedly by the media. As reported by Zachary Evans in “Trump Urges Republicans to Sit Out Coming Elections” at Yahoo News: “Former President Trump is urging Republicans not to vote in upcoming elections unless the “fraud” of the 2020 elections is uncovered….“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 and ’24,” Trump said in a statement released Wednesday. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.” Perhaps some independent group could make it a viral video, leading up to the midterm elections. Evans notes further, “Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election also depressed voter turnout during the Georgia Senate runoff elections on January 5. Georgians elected two Democratic senators as a result, giving the party 50 total Senate seats.”

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