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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Today being the 1st anniversary of the failed coup by Trump and his thug minions, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne puts it in perspective in his column, ‘How to get real accountability for Jan. 6“: As Dionne writes, “One of our two major political parties refuses to face up to what happened. Worse, the Republican Party has been using Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as a pretext to restrict access to the ballot box in many GOP-controlled states and to undermine honest ballot counts by allowing partisan bodies to seize control of the electoral process….“It is important to understand Jan. 6 as a political event and not be misled by a desire to sweep our divisions under a rug woven of well-meaning wishful thinking. While condemnations of the bloody aggression initially crossed party lines, most Republican politicians either retreated into silence bred by fear of Trump or set out to minimize the assault on police officers and the vandalizing of public space as a “protest.”….The deaths of Capitol Police officers, the beating of others, the degradation of the Capitol, and the terrorizing of officials and staff were all rooted in one man’s selfish indifference to the obligations of democratic leadership. Trump provoked the attack on the counting of electoral votes because he hoped to rig an election….The tell as to how much Trump has corrupted his party is its embrace of a wholly new position on federal guarantees of voting rights….The fact that Republicans oppose federal voting guarantees is no reason to give them veto power over bills aimed at repairing abuses their fellow partisans are enacting at the state level….Accountability for the events of Jan. 6 must be legal but also political. At issue is whether we are the democratic republic we claim to be.”

Thomas B. Edsall gives big philanthropy a proper thrashing in his latest NYT column, and writes “Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York magazine, wrote an essay in late November on the dilemmas of the Biden presidency, “Joe Biden’s Big Squeeze,” in which he argued that progressive foundations “have churned out studies and deployed activists to bring left-wing ideas into the political debate. At this they have enjoyed overwhelming success. In recent years, a host of new slogans and plans — the Green New Deal, “Defund the police,” “Abolish ICE,” and so on — have leaped from the world of nonprofit activism onto the chyrons of MSNBC and Fox News. Obviously, the conservative media have played an important role in publicizing (and often distorting) the most radical ideas from the activist left. But the right didn’t invent these edgy slogans; the left did, injecting them into the national bloodstream….The grim irony is that, in attempting to court nonwhite voters, Democrats ended up turning them off. It was not only that they got the data wrong — they were also courting these “marginalized communities” in ways that didn’t appeal to them. For the reality is that the Democratic Party’s most moderate voters are disproportionately Latino and Black.” Eddall adds, “Nonprofits on the left, Chait argued, “set out to build a new Democratic majority. When the underpinnings of its theory collapsed, the movement it built simply continued onward, having persuaded itself that its ideas constituted an absolute moral imperative.”

Inasmuch as “critical race theory” is a topic likely more discussed in foundation board rooms than worker lunchrooms, union halls or family gatherings, Edsall adds, “ALG Research, the major polling firm in the Joe Biden campaign, conducted, along with Third Way, a postelection study of the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, in which Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, defeated Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee. The ALG study of swing voters, which I have reported on in past columns, found, for example, that Republican highlighting of critical race theory had a subtle effect on voters: “CRT in schools is not an issue in and of itself, but it taps into these voters’ frustrations. Voters were nearly unanimous in describing the country as divided and feeling that politics is unavoidably in their faces.” While the voters ALG studied knew that critical race theory had not been formally adopted as part of Virginia’s curriculum, the report continued, “they felt like racial and social justice issues were overtaking math, history, and other things. They absolutely want their kids to hear the good and the bad of American history, at the same time they are worried that racial and cultural issues are taking over the state’s curricula. We should expect this backlash to continue, especially as it plays into another way where parents and communities feel like they are losing control over their schools in addition to the basics of even being able to decide if they’re open or not.”

Edsall quotes fellow Times writer Jeremy Peters to good effect: Critics “have argued that Democrats are trying to explain major issues — such as inflation, crime and school curriculum — with answers that satisfy the party’s progressive base but are unpersuasive and off-putting to most other voters. The clearest example is in Virginia, where the Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, lost his election after spending weeks trying to minimize and discredit his opponent’s criticisms of public school education, particularly the way that racism is talked about. Mr. McAuliffe accused the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, of campaigning on a “made-up” issue and of blowing a “racist dog whistle.”….But, Peters continued: “about a quarter of Virginia voters said that the debate over teaching critical race theory, a graduate-level academic framework that has become a stand-in for a debate over what to teach about race and racism in schools, was the most important factor in their decision, and 72 percent of those voters cast ballots for Mr. Youngkin, according to a survey of more than 2,500 voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization.” Edsall adds, “For leaders of the Democratic Party, these developments pose a particularly frustrating problem because they pay an electoral price for policy proposals and rhetoric that are outside party control.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Democrats will continue being a do nothing party unless Biden sits down with Manchin/Sinema trashes out whatever he can get and then informs the base that they need to push congressional Democrats to accept whatever deals get made.

    Negotiations involving partners that have no leverage are useless. This should have been apparent as soon as January 2021 if Democrats couldn’t get legislation then.

    What happened to the notion of getting stuff done the first 100 days? Momentum matters. Democrats are completely anti-climactic.


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