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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his post mortem on Tuesday’s two governorship elections, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “All of Tuesday’s portents were negative. In both Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans were energized and Democrats were indifferent….In Virginia’s GOP rural precincts, the places where Donald Trump is still a hero, voters surged to polling places in a tidal wave….Democrats, particularly young and Black voters, stayed away, making up a far smaller share of the electorate than they did a year ago….in the end, exit polling made clear, hostility to Biden mattered more than alarm over Trump….But McAuliffe cannot simply blame the president or a dithering Democratic Congress for failing to enact the president’s program in a timely way — even if they have much to answer for….McAuliffe will no doubt long regret 12 words that Youngkin played back again and again in advertising that blanketed the state: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”…It was a dismissive formulation that made it far harder for McAuliffe to push back against Youngkin’s demagogic attack on critical race theory, which is not taught in Virginia’s schools….McAuliffe was not wrong to describe Youngkin’s appeal as “a racist dog whistle.”….But Democrats and progressives need a much better answer to parental discontent….They also have to make a compelling argument for how schools can offer an honest accounting of the role of racism in American life that also honors the country’s achievements. They cannot continue to let Trumpists dominate this discussion….One thing Democrats should not do: tear themselves apart with arguments over critical race theory itself, a set of ideas far better debated in law schools and graduate schools than at school board meetings….Democrats would also be foolish to litigate whether moderates or progressives in Congress are most to blame for McAuliffe’s loss and the surprisingly weak showing of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in New Jersey. They must all take responsibility for the unconscionable delays in enacting the president’s program. So must Biden.”….Democrats must move swiftly to enact and defend the president’s program, and Senate Democrats cannot allow the filibuster to block action on voting rights, now a more urgent cause than ever. Republican state governments will continue to throw up roadblocks to voting — and Black voters who were key to Biden’s victory will not forgive the president or his party if they just walk away from the pivotal civil rights battle of our time.”

In Judy Woodruff’s interview on PBS, James Carville explained it this way: “Well, what went wrong is this stupid wokeness. All right? Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis. Even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean, this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools, that — people see that….Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something. They’re expressing language that people just don’t use. And there’s a backlash and a frustration at that….Youngkin never ran any ads against Biden. And I think what he did is just let the Democrats pull the pin and watch the grenade go off on them….And we have got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws. And these faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what are — they’re not working….Who could even think of something that stupid? And they’re suppressing our vote. And I have got news for you. You’re hurting the party. You’re hurting the very people that you want to help….And Terry got caught up. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s a good guy. He got caught up in something national, and we have got to change this internally, in my view.”…There’s a ton of pent-up demand in this economy. I’m just not one of these people that thinks that we’re necessarily doomed in 2022….We could have a roaring economy. This Build Back Better is going to give people a lot of confidence.And as long as we talk about things that are relevant to people and understand what they’re going through in their lives and get rid of this left-wing nonsense, this claptrap I hear, I think we can be fine….These people have got to understand they’re not popular around the country. People don’t like them. And they’re voting because that’s the only way that they can express themselves and how much they disagree with this….People don’t want to ride in the car with you. They don’t want to ride next to you in the subway….You’re annoying people. And they got to understand that. It’s very important….every Democrat wants to be a policy maven. No one wants to be a salesperson….Well, you got to get out there and sell your product and tell people what’s in it and quit worrying about being in the policy shop or being some self-important bureaucrat. That’s what I think.”

From Ronald Brownstein’s take on the elections at The Atlantic: “The Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race and the unexpectedly close result in New Jersey’s—both states Biden won comfortably last year—don’t guarantee a midterm wipeout for Democrats in 2022. Rather, the sweeping Republican advance in both states more likely previews the problems Democrats will have next November if the political environment doesn’t improve for Biden….Glenn Youngkin, benefited from a huge gaffe by Democrat Terry McAuliffe that seemed to dismiss the role of parents in shaping their kids’ education. But above all, the results reinforced the conclusion that in modern U.S. politics, it’s becoming almost impossible for candidates to escape the shadow of attitudes about the incumbent president, for good or ill….Compared with Biden’s sweeping 2020 win, the exit polls did show Youngkin gaining ground with independents, college-educated white men, and especially white voters without a college degree, both men and women….Even with Youngkin’s marginal gains in the center, both the exit polls and actual results suggest instead that McAuliffe’s biggest problems were explosive turnout and huge deficits in the parts of the state most alienated from Biden and the Democrats who now control Washington. Turnout in Republican-leaning places was so strong that the share of the statewide vote cast by the blue-leaning big five Northern Virginia counties declined this year after steadily rising over the past three governor’s races….For the majority of Democratic elected officials and strategists, the most immediate lesson of Tuesday’s tough night is that the party needs to finally pass Biden’s economic agenda—which they hope will both assuage doubts about the president’s competence and provide them a list of tangible programs they can take to voters next year, including an expanded child tax credit and child-care subsidies and plans to lower prescription-drug prices.”

“Although public polling on immigration shows a strong shift to the left, survey responses in that vein mask a far more complicated reality, Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column. “Over and over again, immigration has proved to be politically problematic for Democrats. As far back as 2007, when he was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rahm Emanuel warned that immigration had become the new “third rail of American politics.”….The reality of the politics of immigration stands in contrast to the more positive Gallup findings that the percentage of people describing immigration as a “good thing” grew to 75 percent in 2021 from 52 percent in 2001, and the percentage describing it as a “bad thing” fell to 21 percent from 31 percent. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of voters who say immigration should be increased grew to 33 percent from 10 percent, while the share who said it should be decreased fell to 31 percent from 43 percent. The percentage saying immigration levels should be left unchanged remained relatively constant over these two decades, ranging from the mid-30s to the low 40s.” Edsall quotes Ryan Enos, a professor of government at Harvard, who contends, “The question for the future of the broader consensus on immigration is whether Republicans can continue to be successful despite the anti-immigrant pandering that is largely out of step with the broad American consensus on immigration. If they are electorally successful — and there is reason to believe they will be, given forecasts for Democratic losses in 2022 — then this broad consensus might break down permanently and a large portion of the American public may follow their Republican leaders toward more fully adopting anti-immigrant ideology.”

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