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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Every Republican U.S. Senator voted to block the The “Freedom to Vote Act,” from being considered. As Sam Levine explains at The Guardian, the Act “would require every state to automatically register voters at motor vehicle agencies, offer 15 consecutive days of early voting and allow anyone to request a mail-in ballot. It would also set new standards to ensure voters are not wrongfully removed from the voter rolls, protect election officials against partisan interference, and set out clear alternatives people who lack ID to vote can use at the polls.” Levine continues, “While most Democrats in the Senate favor getting rid of the filibuster, at least for voting rights legislation, the blockade will put immense pressure on two of the most significant remaining Democratic holdouts, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. There will be particular scrutiny on Manchin, who personally helped write the revised bill and has been seeking GOP support for it. It’s not yet clear if a lack of Republican support for any kind of compromise could force Manchin to finally support some kind of change to the filibuster but activists have been heartened by a letter he issued earlier this year in which he said “inaction is not an option” around voting rights.”

At The Daily Beast, Sam Brodey shares some perspectives on how to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin to support Democratic legislative reforms: “At this point, those who are pleading with Manchin not to buck his party’s agenda are at a loss. That’s particularly the case for some of the senator’s own constituents, who have sought to make the case directly to him that the party’s sweeping proposal would provide much-needed investments in their home state, one of the nation’s poorest….“It’s become insanity to us,” said Angi Kerns, one of the West Virginia activists who confronted Manchin from a kayak on the Potomac River outside his houseboat….“We’ve done everything we can do in West Virginia—collected stories, amplified voices, thousands of people are calling a day,” she told The Daily Beast. “He doesn’t care. The only option we have at this point is to make ourselves be heard.”…Liberal advocates in West Virginia have an unusual relationship with the senator they’re often cajoling. He may resist their pleas, but because he is so attuned to his reputation back home, he tries to avoid stiffing his constituents. That means some advocates have had multiple meetings with him over the years—which are not always groundbreaking but can be productive….Kerns said before showing up at Manchin’s houseboat, she had met with him or his staff directly five times so far this year. In those discussions, she said, it was tough to dislodge the senator from his talking points—until she started speaking his language….“It’s not what you say, but how you lay it out for him,” Kerns said. “To get his attention, it has to be structured in terms of an investment, a return on investment… then, as a businessman who cares a lot about dollars and cents, he at least takes pause, and he doesn’t have a pre-set narrative.”…Getting as far away from an ideological discussion as possible is crucial with Manchin, said DiStefano. “The over the top rhetoric only reinforces the national media narrative, which has not been the best,” he said. “The key to success is presenting an argument to the senator, begin with data, lead with your values, and your values should be delivered by people who are living this.”

In “Why Democrats are trying to fit every wish into a shrinking bill: Democrats are banking on the popularity of these policies to keep them around,” Li Zhou reports at Vox: “Democrats, it seems, are looking to pare down their budget bill by going the route favored by progressives. While they’re weighing some big cuts to the $3.5 trillion package, the general approach — which isn’t yet finalized — skews toward funding more programs for a shorter period of time, rather than fewer programs for longer….Pushback from moderates over the size of the package has meant tough decisions about what to cut and what to keep. Progressives argued for preserving as many of the proposal’s policies as possible, while saving money by having them expire sooner than initially planned. Some moderates, meanwhile, advocated for the opposite: funding fewer programs for more time….President Joe Biden backed the former strategy as well, and that appears to be the course Democrats will pursue. Biden and the progressives hope the policies will be so popular — even if they’re only implemented for a short period — that it will be difficult for future lawmakers to let them lapse, regardless of who controls Congress….Obviously, some of these programs are shorter than ideal. But the president believes, and I agree with him, that once we have these programs established, it becomes hard to take them away,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a member of Progressive Caucus leadership, told reporters on Tuesday….Opponents of this thinking emphasize that this approach could mean that many of these programs simply expire after funding runs out.”

Noah Rothman explains why “Popularity is just not enough to make activist desiderata manifest — not in the United States” at at MSNBC News: “That word — popular — has become something of an obsession among anxious center-left Democrats. It’s contributing to a mania overtaking the liberal media ecosystem. And the unlikely figure around whom apprehensive Democrats find themselves rallying, 30-year-old political strategist David Shor, has the answer: Just talk about popular stuff….Doing things” via legislation is difficult by design. Popularity without exigency is not enough. What’s more, initiatives that are undeniably popular can become unpopular (see the latitude once afforded labor unions in law and jurisprudential precedent) and vice versa (see the Affordable Care Act). The public’s attitudes shift, sometimes as a reaction to complex societal phenomena but often in response to stimuli policy wonks would dismiss as superficial. To predicate your political strategy on popularity is to build a foundation on sand….What Shor has right, and what his progressive opponents are deliberately refusing to comprehend, is that Democrats are better off without needlessly antagonizing the public. Wild-eyed theories that would replace police with social workers and functionally end the enforcement of U.S. immigration law in workplaces offend on an essential level. Reducing financial pressures on families by doling out largess from the public treasury sounds great, but not to the point that the public welcomes disincentives to work indefinitely. There’s a difference between being popular and principled. Voters can tell the difference, even if the Democratic intelligentsia cannot.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    The pundit class’ consensus around doing “more” with fewer programs is just the latest example of elites being wrong about the long term consequences of political strategies.


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