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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

One of the reasons we ofen quote E. J. Dionne Jr. at TDS is that the Democrats are a party that frequently needs adult supervision (although that’s better than the GOP, which is in urgent need of psychiatric care for their abusive daddy issues). In Dionne’s current WaPo column, “Take the win, Democrats, and don’t look back,” he writes, “Celebrate victory. Explain what you’ve achieved. Defend it from attack. Change the public conversation in your favor. Build on success to make more progress. And for God’s sake, don’t moan about what might have been….President Biden and Democrats in Congress are on the cusp of ending their long journey through legislative hell by enacting a remarkable list of practical, progressive programs….This will confront them with a choice. They can follow the well-tested rules for champions of social change. Or they can repeat past mistakes by letting their opponents define what they have done and complain about the things left undone….Passing Biden’s program and defending it successfully offer all wings of his party the best opportunity they will have to push the day-to-day dialogue toward the tangible and the achievable….Begin with the basics: Trump spent four years promising investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure. Biden got it done with bipartisan support.” Sound advice. And it wouldn’t hurt if Democratic moderates and progressives would stop sniping at each other.

Dionne also has some salient comments about tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Virginia and its effect of Democratic maturity and unity: “A victory by Republican Glenn Youngkin in Tuesday’s Virginia governor’s race would unleash recriminations guaranteed to make this task even harder. If Democrat Terry McAuliffe hangs on to win, it will be Republicans forced into soul-searching about the steep costs of their continuing fealty to Donald Trump….But however it turns out, the Virginia contest should force Democrats to confront the imperative of shifting the terms of the political debate. In a state Biden carried by 10 points, Youngkin managed to dominate the campaign’s final weeks with a shameful focus on critical race theory — which is not taught anywhere in the state — and the suppression of challenging books in high school curriculums….Youngkin’s trafficking in racial backlash could work as well as it did, because Democrats have fallen short in fulfilling one of the most important aspirations of the Biden era. They hoped that politics could be defined more by how government can get useful things done and less by manufactured issues that promote moral panic among conservatives and sharpen divisions around race, immigration and culture.” I would add only that a McAuliffe win would lend some cred to the ‘demographics is destiny’ argument, particularly when favorable demographic transformation is accompanied by solid strategy and fierce GOTV.

Charlie Cook sees it this way at The Cook Political Report: “What many progressive Democrats did not seem to realize is that while they were busy holding Biden’s spending package hostage—one that would have addressed badly needed infrastructure needs that have gone unaddressed for three decades—public concern about the direction of the economy surged, putting Democratic House and Senate majorities in real danger, and putting the Virginia governorship in considerably more danger than it should have been. If Democrats lose that governorship, it will feel like an earthquake just hit at the Democratic National Committee headquarters….While progressives did their party considerably more damage than they realize, it is a mistake to relieve Biden and Democratic congressional leaders of their share of culpability. Biden has been trying to emulate Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, yet it’s hard to imagine either of those presidents or their respective party leaders on the Hill putting up with their rank-and-file members sabotaging a signature piece of presidential legislation and making their own president appear politically impotent….Had Democrats simply pushed through the hard-infrastructure package—the streets, bridges, water systems, ports, airports, and broadband expansions that have broad, bipartisan support—then pushed a more modestly sized social-spending measure, both their party and their president would be seen in a considerably better light than they are today and their majority would be in less danger.”

A pretty good historical perspective and video update on the Virginia race from Jeff Greenfield:

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    Seriously? Charlie Cook didn’t recognize that it was Joe Manchin holding Biden’s spending package hostage? In fact, Joe Manchin is so far out of Cook’s field of view that he doesn’t merit being mentioned at all.

    The biggest problem in politics is not Donald Trump. It is Keepers of the Conventional Wisdom like Charlie Cook.

  2. Victor on

    I wished we had more qualitative focus groups to explain Biden’s dropping popularity and less press coverage of outright speculation by out of touch elites and useless polling about generalities.

    I would love to see some exploration of the notion that many Democrats are pessimistic just because the realization that so many of our fellow citizens have continued radicalizing during covid and after the attack on the Capitol is quite depressing and there are simply no easy policy or political responses to this challenge.

  3. Victor on

    Progressives as hostage takers…really? The role of Manchin and Sinema and the White House’s communication problems would have made that role unnecessary.


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