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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Status Anxiety Is Blowing Wind Into Trump’s Sails,” New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes that “In “Local Economic and Political Effects of Trade Deals: Evidence from NAFTA,” Jiwon Choi and Ilyana Kuziemko, both of Princeton, Ebonya Washington of Yale and Gavin Wright of Stanford make the case that the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 played a crucial role in pushing working-class whites out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party:

We demonstrate that counties whose 1990 employment depended on industries vulnerable to NAFTA suffered large and persistent employment losses relative to other counties. These losses begin in the mid-1990s and are only modestly offset by transfer programs. While exposed counties historically voted Democratic, in the mid-1990s they turn away from the party of the president (Bill Clinton) who ushered in the agreement and by 2000 vote majority Republican in House elections.

The trade agreement with Mexico and Canada “led to lasting, negative effects on Democratic identification among regions and demographic groups that were once loyal to the party,” Choi and her co-authors write….Before enactment, the Republican share of the vote in NAFTA-exposed counties was 38 percent, well below the national average, but “by 1998, these once solidly Democratic counties voted as or more Republican in House elections as the rest of the country,” according to Choi and her colleagues….Before NAFTA, the authors write, Democratic Party support for protectionist policies had been the glue binding millions of white working-class voters to the party, overcoming the appeal of the Republican Party on racial and cultural issues. Democratic support for the free trade agreement effectively broke that bond: “For many white Democrats in the 1980s, economic issues such as trade policy were key to their party loyalty because on social issues such as guns, affirmative action and abortion they sided with the G.O.P.””

Edsall continues, “The promise of economic well-being achieved through meritocratic means lies at the very heart of Western liberal economies,” write three authors — Elena Cristina Mitrea of the University of Sibiu in Romania, and Monika Mühlböck and Julia Warmuth of the University of Vienna — in “Extreme Pessimists? Expected Socioeconomic Downward Mobility and the Political Attitudes of Young Adults.” In reality, “the experience of upward mobility has become less common, while the fear of downward mobility is no longer confined to the lower bound of the social strata, but pervades the whole society.”….Status anxiety has become a driving force, Mitrea and her colleagues note: “It is not so much current economic standing, but rather anxiety concerning future socioeconomic decline and déclassement, that influences electoral behavior.”….“Socially disadvantaged and economically insecure citizens are more susceptible to the appeals of the radical right,” Mitrea, Mühlböck and Warmuth observe, citing data showing “that far-right parties were able to increase their vote share by 30 percent in the aftermath of financial crises.”

Economic insecurity translates into support for the far-right through feelings of relative deprivation, which arise from negative comparisons drawn between actual economic well-being and one’s expectations or a social reference group. Coping with such feelings increases the likelihood of rejecting political elites and nurturing anti-foreign sentiments.

The concentration of despair in the United States among low-income whites without college degrees compared with their Black and Hispanic counterparts is striking.”

Chris Cillizza provides an update on U.S. Senate races at CNN Politics, and notes, “At the moment, there are six Senate races that both sides agree are toss ups. Democrats are seeking reelection in three of those races: Arizona (Mark Kelly), Georgia (Raphael Warnock) and Nevada (Catherine Cortez Masto). Another features a Republican running for another term: Wisconsin (Ron Johnson). And two are open seats due to Republican retirements: North Carolina and Pennsylvania….Barring some sort of unforeseen cataclysm, those races will be close from now until Election Day. It’s the races at the next level of competitiveness — where one side is favored, but the other side has a shot — that could wind up determining who holds the majority come January 2023….In that next tier of Democratic-held seats is where Republicans are struggling on candidate recruitment. While New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan is still considered vulnerable, Republicans have a harder climb than they would have if Gov. Chris Sununu had run. Ditto Colorado, where the GOP seems to be nowhere in terms of recruiting a top-tier candidate to take on Sen. Michael Bennet. Now, add Maryland to that list….Democrats, by contrast, have a few longer-shot opportunities among GOP-controlled seats. They got their preferred candidates in Florida (Rep. Val Demings) and Ohio (Rep. Tim Ryan) to run, and effectively cleared the primary field for each of them. Missouri’s open seat is another longer-shot chance if Republicans nominate controversial former Gov. Eric Greitens.”

On January 31st I posted that Judge J. Michelle Childs, who who President Biden recently nominated to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court and has been listed on media short lists as a possible contender for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, had “a strong record a strong track record in support of worker rights” and “may be the potential nominee most feared by anti-labor conservatives.” Alexander Sammon , who researched Judge Child’s record more thoroughly than I did, reports at The American Prospect that “Childs’s experience is worth scrutinizing closely. As a lawyer, Childs served as an associate and then partner at Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard, from 1992 to 2000. At Nexsen Pruet, Childs worked primarily in labor and employment law, principally working on behalf of employers against allegations of racial discrimination, civil rights violations, and unionization drives….Nexsen Pruet, where Childs was a partner, has for years boasted of its anti-union services, advertising to firms hoping to keep their workplace “union-free,” “offer[ing] strength in unfair labor practice and union representation issues,” and warning against the impacts of the PRO Act, Democrats’ signature unionization bill that was included in the Build Back Better Act.” I apologize to readers for inadequate research in my post.

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