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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

When it comes time to fill a U. S. Supreme Court seat, there is always a lot of discussion about the implications for decisions that address racial and gender justice. That’s good. Those are always leading concerns for society. But rarely is there much discussion about the implications of potential nominees regarding worker rights, which affects employees of all races. It could be different this time. President Biden has said that he will nominate an African American woman to fill the high court seat being vacated by Justice Breyer, which is good news for Americans concerned about racial injustice and reproductive rights. This year, however, at least one of the potential ‘short list’ nominees also has a strong track record in support of worker rights. Judge J. Michelle Childs, who President Biden recently nominated to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court, has also served as a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and a deputy director at the state Department of Labor. “Childs is a favorite of top Black Caucus members including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), according to two senior Democratic aides,” Nick Niedzwiadek reports at Politico.  It’s likely that all of the potential ‘short list’ nominees would be good on defending worker rights. And yes, Childs, at 56, is older than a couple other short-listers, including California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, 45 and D.C. Appeal Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51. But, if confirmed, Childs would probably serve for at least two decades. Childs, who has been called an “expert on employment law,” may be the potential nominee most feared by anti-labor conservatives, which is a plus, considering the steady erosion of unions since the Reagan Administration.

“A new justice will not dent the court’s majority of Republican-appointed justices,” as E. J. Dionne, Jr. observes in his Washington Post column. “But the coming weeks will provide an exceptional opportunity to underscore the imperative of fighting back against ideologues in robes. They are ready to do further damage to voting rights and to eviscerate the government’s ability to protect Americans through economic, labor, environmental and health regulations….It’s certainly true that the battle for a new justice provides short-term political advantages for Biden. His party has been broadly united on his picks for the judiciary up to now, so he has a good chance of a major victory after setbacks on voting rights and his social program….And in keeping his promise to name a Black woman to the court, Biden will rally core supporters even as Republicans embarrass themselves by criticizing Biden for identifying the race and gender of his future pick….It’s not a good look for the GOP, especially because the jurists on Biden’s shortlist have enormously impressive records. Don’t the Republicans have enough problems around race already?”

Amy Walter has some suggestions for “How to Survive a Wave Election” at The Cook Political Report, including: “2. Define your opponent early and often….Midterm elections are a referendum on the party in power. When things are going well, you ride that momentum. When things aren’t going well, you have to find a way to change the topic. You can’t suddenly make people care less about inflation or COVID. But, you can try to undercut the image of your opponent. Or to force them into a fight on policy/ideological turf that is more comfortable for you than them. “You are in a constant battle to keep the campaign off of the major narrative of the election,” another strategist told me. “Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to make it a character campaign, if your opponents background allows for that.” Even then, however, voters may be willing take a risk with a flawed challenger rather than sticking with an incumbent party they feel has lost its way. I remember talking to GOP campaigns back in 2006 who were flummoxed at how challenging it was to make any of their attacks on their Democratic opponents stick. Things that would have sunk their opponent in a previous cycle didn’t move the needle.” To chuck a related idea into the mix, Democrats should organize a special task force of their top oppo experts to focus on creative ways to deepen and exploit Republican divisions, which are already doing the GOP  damage in several states and congressional districts, thanks to Trump’s blundering.

At Mother Jones, Ryan Little and Ari Berman note, “During municipal elections in November, Georgia voters were 45 times more likely to have their mail ballot applications rejected—and ultimately not vote as a result—than in 2020. If that same rejection rate were extrapolated to the 2020 race, more than 38,000 votes would not have been cast in a presidential contest decided by just over 11,000 votes….In November 2021, Georgians who successfully obtained mail ballots were also twice as likely to have those ballots rejected once they were submitted compared to the previous year. If that were the case in 2020, about 31,000 fewer votes would have been cast in the presidential election….More than half of mail ballot applications were rejected because they arrived after the state’s newly imposed deadline to request them. In 2020, Georgia voters could request a mail ballot up until the Friday before Election Day; under the new law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, voters must place their requests no later than 11 days before the election, which voting rights advocates say is too early and burdensome for many voters….These rejections are having a disproportionate impact on Democratic-leaning constituencies. Black voters, who make up about a third of the electorate in Georgia, accounted for half of all late ballot application rejections, according to the voting rights group Fair Fight Action. Voters 18 to 29 made up just 2.76 percent of mail voters in 2021, but they constituted 15 percent of late ballot application rejections. Overall, four times as many Democratic voters requested mail ballots compared to Republicans, so an increase in rejections will particularly harm their party….An analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November 2021 found that rejected mail ballot applications had quadrupled compared to 2020.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Thank you, J.P. Green, for the link and excerpt from Amy Walters’s column at Cook Political Report. It is hard to disagree with her recommendations for Democrats’ campaigns this year.

    • Walter on

      Don’t know anything about Michelle Childs’ record on workers rights, and would love to have a serious workers rights advocate on the Court, but having worked as an employer-side labor lawyer in South Carolina (among the most anti-labor states in the US, with an aggressively anti-union labor law bar) is hardly a reason to conclude she will be a generally pro-worker advocate. Not does serving as a state labor department official in that very conservative and generally anti-union state. If there are serious records that indicate she would be such an advocate, that would be truly great. But although her advocates assert she is an “expert on workers rights” few details are given. Being “an expert” on a field of law does not say anything about one’s relevant views, ideologies, or sympathies.


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