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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook explains why “Dems’ Problems Bigger Than Redistricting,” and writes: “A question I’m getting asked a lot these days is: “What does President Biden need to do to turn this midterm election around?” To many, it seems like a political version of a Rubik’s Cube, a puzzle ready and waiting to be solved with the right approach. Don’t be so sure….Surely, some Democrats have been buoyed by a bit of good news lately. Reports over the last few days from Cook Political Report with Amy Walter redistricting guru David Wasserman and others have argued that Democrats have fared better than expected in the redistricting process….While it is true that Democrats do seem to have escaped a tsunami in reapportionment and redistricting, their fundamental political troubles heading into the midterm elections have little to do with either reapportionment or redistricting….The overall political environment, including Biden’s low job-approval ratings and a big disparity in enthusiasm levels between more-energized Republicans and more-lethargic Democrats, continue to be much greater threats. The potential for a wave election has nothing to do with ink on a map and everything to do with voters’ broader concerns….So what needs to happen to save Democrats’ skin? As Doug Sosnik, who was a senior political aide in the Clinton White House, told Politico’s “Playbook,” the administration needs to control the coronavirus and inflation, return the supply chain to normal, dodge a global crisis, and hope Biden’s job approvals return to the “high 40s by summer.” Meanwhile, the GOP needs to “nominate unelectable general-election candidates and run lousy campaigns,” and “Trump and Republicans need to keep talking about the 2020 election.”…t stands to reason that between now and Election Day, we may have emerged from the coronavirus and started feeling normal again. If the Republican National Committee’s censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger this weekend for their participation on the Jan. 6 committee is any indication, Republicans may indeed give Democrats a helping hand.”

In “What Democrats And Republicans Get Wrong About Inflation” at FiveThirtyEight, Santul Nerkar writes that “there is an element of the prices we’re seeing today — and how Americans are responding to them — that could be explained by big business run amok. Philippon, whose book “The Great Reversal” focuses on how a lack of competition and corporate concentration have defined the modern American economy, told me that one reason why inflation is such a big deal in the U.S. is that prices were already so high to begin with…..“That’s not a statement about rapid inflation, it’s a statement about slowly rising profit margins that slowly choke off the middle class,” Philippon said. “One reason it’s particularly painful in the U.S. is that prices were already high, people’s purchasing power, the real value of their wages was already being eroded by market power before. Then when you add to that a burst of inflation, it’s even more painful.” ….That may explain why recent polling has found that Americans are sympathetic to arguments that attribute inflation to corporate greed, and why Biden is singing a fairly populist tune on inflation. But as with all aspects of messaging on the issue, whether Democrats or Republicans are more right on the facts of inflation has very little to do with its potential electoral impact. Prices have to stabilize for Americans to feel good about the economy — and for Democrats to feel good about their chances in 2022…..“I don’t think there’s any message that would make people feel good about 7 percent inflation,” Furman said.”

“Bills banning members of Congress from trading stocks are gaining increased bipartisan support,” reports Ellen Ioanes at Vox, “— including from a former skeptic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — after a series of investigations involving potential insider trading by lawmakers, particularly in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic….There’s wide agreement among voters that legislators should be banned from trading stocks while in Congress, since their position can give them access to information about companies and industries that ordinary people don’t have. While there are some policies in place to at least provide transparency about how legislators are making money from the stock market, there aren’t significant punishments for violating those rules….In fact, as Business Insider’s Dave Levinthal reported earlier this month, at least 55 members of Congress violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act in 2021 alone….According to Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the government watchdog group Public Citizen, public frustration with ethical issues — and widespread public support for a stock trading ban — is likely driving the current push….Ethics experts say there are abundant reasons why lawmakers should be barred from trading individual stocks, but the problem was cast into particularly stark relief by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic….Specifically, in early 2020, when many Americans suddenly lost their jobs due to the pandemic (not to mention had to deal with unexpected medical bills and child care), US senators raked in millions after placing fortuitous trades in the stock market.” Ioanes discusses several proposed reforms, including “The Ossoff-Kelly bill, which has yet to find a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate, is modeled closely on a bipartisan bill in the House, which was first introduced by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) in 2020 and reintroduced last year. That bill — the TRUST in Congress Act — doesn’t cover other asset classes like mutual funds or government bonds, as its Senate counterpart does, but would still impose substantial divestment requirements on lawmakers.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reviews U. S. Rep. Ro Khanna’s new book, new book, “Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us,” and observes that it is “a manifesto for a progressive capitalism that values both ambition and settled communities, both growth and fairness….Khanna’s goal is “to make the high-tech revolution work for everyone, not just for certain Silicon Valley leaders” and to “create opportunities for people where they live instead of uprooting them.”….He scolds policymakers for ignoring “the destabilization of local communities.”….A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Khanna endorses the social supports that liberals have long insisted are essential to a just society: health-care guarantees, “a family-supporting wage,” wide access to educational opportunities, enhanced worker rights…..But he also outlines an array of place-based approaches to make venture capital more widely available; to use the federal government’s contracting power to spread tech opportunities to rural areas; and to create “digital grant colleges” allied with traditional land-grant institutions “to bring private-sector expertise to job training.”….We need to move away from “mythologizing these tech jobs,” Khanna says, with “the worst caricatures” involving talk of “turning coal miners into coders.” In his book and in conversation, he stresses that good manufacturing jobs now require a high level of technical training because so many products, from appliances to automobiles — cars, he notes, have become “computers on wheels” — are themselves high-tech goods….Our country will miss an enormous opportunity if it doesn’t take advantage of what Khanna calls “the covid-19 realignment.” The pandemic opened up “the possibility of tech decentralization to places that have been left behind.” Remote work not only relocates jobs but, harnessed wisely, could also create opportunities “for local wealth creation.”….What’s heartening about Khanna’s way of looking at things is not just the policy creativity he’s calling for or his invocation of an old American tradition — dating to Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln — of marrying public action to widely diffused economic growth. It’s also his insistence that Democrats and progressives need to go beyond saying “America is falling apart” and advance “a hopeful, aspirational vision of America.”….“Yes, we should be for a redistribution — tax the billionaires in my district,” he says with a laugh. But the broader objective is to give everyone “the opportunity to build wealth” because “people want to aspire, they want to build things, they want to create things.”….Lord knows, we can’t count on even the wisest economic policies to wipe away our political divisions, or racism, or intolerance. But it’s bracing to hear a progressive speaking with admiration and respect for Paintsville, Ky.; Beckley, W.Va.; Jefferson, Iowa; and places like them. And if we’re ever to find our way toward a degree of social peace, Khanna’s shorthand for a better society — “prosper together and respect local communities” — seems a good place to start.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    The Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 authorizes the President to order wage and price controls. President Nixon did just that in 1971, starting with a 90-day wage-price freeze and establishing a Cost of Living Council. Public approval of his economic policy went from 70% disapproval to 70% approval. Nixon was re-elected by a landslide. The law is still on the books so Biden could order a 90-day wage-price freeze of his own and restore the Cost of Living Council to administer wage-price controls thereafter.


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