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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “Quit Moping: Democrats Had a Great Record in 2021: Despite inflation, the Biden economic boom is on. Shots are getting in arms. We’re out of Afghanistan. Now, if Democrats can just get their swagger back,” at The Washington Monthly, Anne Kim writes that “when Biden entered office, the U.S. economy was in chaos, thanks to Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Unemployment was 6.8 percent, the economy was contracting, and job growth was anemic. Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March, averted a financial crisis for millions of American households through emergency stimulus checks, rent relief, and other support. It also funded school districts’ reopening efforts, propped up state and local governments facing steep budgetary shortfalls, and helped keep thousands of businesses afloat with loans and grants through programs like the Paycheck Protection Plan. The Treasury Department reports that the economy created 3 million new jobs within six months of the package’s enactment, while the nation’s economic output recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Since last November, the economy has regained 5.8 million jobs, and wages are up 3.8 percent….The American Rescue Plan included a first-ever monthly tax credit for families with children, which reduced child poverty to historic lows. In October, according to Columbia University, the child tax credit reached 61.1 million children, slashing the child poverty rate by 4.9 percent and reducing hunger among low-income families with children by as much as 25 percent….After decades of inaction (and four years of empty promises from Trump), Biden signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, upgrade energy and water systems, and connect millions of rural Americans to broadband. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which has consistently awarded U.S. infrastructure C and D grades over the past 20 years, hailedthe new law as a “historic, once in a generation investment.” Already, the first infusions of cash are headed to states and cities; the federal government recently announced the award of $3 billion in upgrades for U.S. airports, with more to come….In his debate with President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked the question that’s become the litmus test for voters ever since: “Are you better off than you were four years ago”?….In the case of Biden’s slow but steady stewardship over the past year, versus the chaos and corruption of Trump, the answer, unequivocally, is yes. Democrats should brag about their accomplishments rather than undercut their success, moping about what hasn’t yet happened. What’s important is that American families are overwhelmingly better off this year than last.”

Some insights from Charlie Cook’s latest article at The Cook Political Report: “President Biden and congressional Democrats could look back at this year with pride and accomplishment, given their passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $1 trillion infrastructure package. But instead, the first session of the 117th Congress is now in the history books, and Democrats head into the holiday season deeply demoralized, badly damaged politically, and with real reason to fear that Biden could become the fifth consecutive president to lose both Senate and House majorities on his watch…While there is still a chance that Biden and maverick Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin can reach some agreement early next year for a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act, the budget reconciliation package with major social spending and climate-change funding, the reality is that Biden and Democratic congressional leaders badly miscalculated what was realistic given the circumstances of the 2020 election outcome….Quite simply, if you want to do big things, you have to win elections big. The ambition of a party’s legislative and policy agenda should be commensurate with the magnitude of their victory. A meager victory won with the smallest of majorities demands a more modest agenda. Notwithstanding many worthy elements in what Democrats sought this year, proportionality was not to be found when comparing how Democrats did in 2020 and what they tried to do in 2021….”

Cook continues, “Biden’s 5-point popular vote win masked the fact that the relationship between the popular and electoral vote has been severed. Democrats running up the score in California and a few other populous states distort the picture about what really matters: the swing states. By that standard, this was an extremely close election, decided by a combined total of fewer than 126,000 votes scattered across four states. That is a long haul from Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson’s 44-state sweeps, with popular-vote wins of 23 and 18 points, respectively….Looking at Congress, 59 of the Senate’s 96 seats were occupied by Democrats when FDR took office. LBJ had 68 out of 100. Democrats had 313 seats in the House for FDR, 295 for LBJ….For this Congress, Democrats won their 49th seat on Jan. 5 with Raphael Warnock’s win of just under 94,000 votes over Kelly Loeffler in one Georgia runoff. The 50th came days later, as Jon Ossoff was declared the winner, by just under 55,000 votes over David Perdue. This is about as underwhelming as Senate majorities come….The 221 seats that Democrats have in the House represents a 13-seat loss in the 2020 election. Their very majority was saved by fewer than 32,000 votes in five districts. Simply put, this was a very ambiguous election result and not one from which to claim a mandate….So where are Democrats now? This past Saturday morning on SiriusXM’s The Trendline with Kristen Soltis Anderson, my colleague David Wasserman told the host, a highly regarded Republican pollster, that a net Democratic loss in the House of between 20 and 40 seats was quite possible. The Senate is far too murky to even hazard a guess.”

“It’s time for Democrats and the media to stop bashing Joe Manchin and to start bashing the other 50 members of the U.S. Senate who are keeping the public’s business from getting done—the Republicans. Especially bash-worthy are three world-class phonies named Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Lisa Murkowski,” Robert Kuttner writes at The American Prospect. “These alleged moderates vote in lockstep with Mitch McConnell and the Trumpers. Once, Collins actually was sort of moderate. She is said to be worried that if she breaks with the MAGA gang, she would likely be defeated in a primary. But in independent Maine, Collins would win in a walk running as an independent….Murkowski might do better in Alaska as an independent in a three-way contest, as well. Romney, who was a centrist Republican when he was governor of Massachusetts, will have to look to his own conscience as an enabler of outright fascism….If even one of them broke ranks and worked across the aisle, Manchin would suddenly be a lot less powerful.” Collins and Romney probably lack the intestinal fortitude to challenge their party and become Independents. But Murkowski has occasionally shown some mettle and flashes of humanity. One of 7 Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, she said, “if the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me.” And, really, this isn’t her father’s Republican party any more. Murkowski has the smarts to see that, if she merely declared herself to be an Independent, she could suddenly become the most powerful U.S. Senator. It would put her in position to bring home some serious bacon for her constituents in Alaska, not just in BBB —  it would also give her unique leverage in future legislative battles.

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    “The ambition of a party’s legislative and policy agenda should be commensurate with the magnitude of their victory. A meager victory won with the smallest of majorities demands a more modest agenda. Notwithstanding many worthy elements in what Democrats sought this year, proportionality was not to be found when comparing how Democrats did in 2020 and what they tried to do in 2021….”

    “…Democrats running up the score in California and a few other populous states distort the picture about what really matters: the swing states. By that standard, this was an extremely close election, decided by a combined total of fewer than 126,000 votes scattered across four states.

    So on one hand democrats need to talk about whats popular and on the other, forget that: popularity doesn’t matter. Americans need to be regularly lectured on how the will of the people is unimportant, silly day dreaming kid stuff.
    Democracy distorts what’s really important and that is a handful of states that you most likely don’t live in, American voter. Realists understand this.
    Unless we all want the former guy to come back, democrats should have a modest agenda, one that doesn’t reflect popular opinion. It absolutely cannot solve any problems. This means embrace the manchins and their need to trash the party. Only then we will get the majorities we need (we wont) and then we’ll finally be able to do big things, except the candidates you’ll be voting for don’t want to do big things 🤷🏻‍♀️ whoopsadaisy!

    Reply
  2. Victor on

    This is deluded. Voters will compare with the Trump pre-pandemic economy. And Biden’s mishandling of Covid is simply unforgivable.

    Reply
  3. Martin Lawford on

    Vice-President Harris recently said on “Face The Nation” that her biggest failure as Vice President was “To not get out of D.C. more.” Now Anne Kim writes in Washington Monthly that in 2022 “Democrats should brag about their accomplishments rather than undercut their success…” If Harris meant what she said and if Kim is correct, then the two problems can solve each other. If Vice-President Harris would tour the country in 2022, touting Democrats’ recent achievements, she would “get out of D.C. more” and remind the voters of what the party has done for them since President Biden took office.

    Reply

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