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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Who’s Soft on Russia? Meet the Republican Anti-Ukraine Caucus!,” William Saletan writes at The Bulwark: “Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the House of Representatives has voted on three measures specific to the war. The first vote, taken on March 2, was on a resolution that endorsed sanctions against Russia, reaffirmed Ukrainian sovereignty over territory seized by Russia, advocated military aid to Ukraine, and pledged to support the Ukrainian resistance. All six members of the progressive “Squad”—Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib—voted for the resolution. So did Rep. Barbara Lee, the Democrats’ foremost opponent of military spending. Not one Democrat voted against the resolution. But three Republicans did: Reps. Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, and Matt Rosendale….On March 9, the House passed a bill to suspend oil and gas imports from Russia. Five of the seven Democratic leftists voted for the suspension. The two who voted against it—Bush and Omar—were joined by 15 Republicans who also voted no. In addition to Gosar and Massie, this time the list included Reps. Andy Biggs, Dan Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Scott DesJarlais, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Grothman, Clay Higgins, Bill Posey, Chip Roy, and Tom Tiffany….On March 17, the House passed a bill to end favorable trade relations with Russia and its accomplice in the war, Belarus. Eight Republicans voted against the bill. Every Democrat, including the seven leftists, voted for it….The other side of the equation is the near-unanimity of support among Democrats, even from very progressive members, for standing up to Russia. Leftist Democrats generally oppose armed intervention, yet nearly all of them voted for sanctions against Russia and military aid for Ukraine….“We have to hold Putin accountable,” Pressley told her constituents at a town hall last week. Ocasio-Cortez, at her own town hall, applauded President Biden for refusing to be “walked over” by Putin. And in a progressive teleconference on the Ukraine crisis, Lee endorsed “security and military assistance” to the Ukrainians because “we’ve got to help them defend themselves.”….Many of the 21 House Republicans, however, don’t see it that way. They’ve swallowed a cocktail of isolationism, defeatism, partisan paranoia, and Russian disinformation.” No doubt nearly all of those 21 House seats are safe for Republicans. But maybe Putin’s horrifying war crimes can help defeat a couple of them — or taint the GOP ‘Brand.’

Could the Putinista ‘brand’ hurt the GOP’s image? Chris Cillizza reports at CNN Politics that “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created utter chaos in Eastern Europe. But it has clarified one thing in America: Vladimir Putin is a bad guy and Russia is a bad actor on the world stage….That story comes through loud and clear in recent polling from the Pew Research Center….More than 9 in 10 Americans (92%) said they have little or no confidence in Putin’s handling of world affairs, compared with 6% who said they had at least some confidence….In March, 70% of Americans called Russia an enemy….That clarity of public opinion on Russia and its motives should strengthen President Joe Biden’s hand as he seeks to deal with the crisis. The US is remarkably unified on that front — a rarity in such a deeply polarized environment….It also shines a particularly harsh light on the praise that former President Donald Trump and some of his allies lavished on Putin at the start of the conflict. There seems to be little appetite among the American public for people who see Putin in anything but a negative light.” Time is not on the side of Putin’s Republican defenders, since he has taken no steps to de-escalate the war against the Ukraine – amid mouting revelations of horrific atrocities.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. muses on the deepening partisan divisions in the U.S., and also notes an impressive contrast between America’s most heavily populated blue and red states:  “In his State of the State message last month, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, openly contrasted his state’s policies and health outcomes with those of three Republican-led states. He was especially pointed about the record in Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged war on vaccine and mask mandates….“Our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives,” Newsom said. “Our mask mandates saved lives. Your choices saved lives. California experienced far lower covid death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio, fewer than Florida — 35 percent to be exact.”….Newsom spoke with pride about California’s liberal-leaning leadership, especially on climate issues. He repeatedly touted “the California Way” that rejected “exploiting division with performative politics and memes of the moment.” It was hard not to think that Newsom was laying out themes for a future presidential campaign.”

From “‘Horse race’ coverage of elections can harm voters, candidates and news outlets” by Denise-Marie Ordway at Journalist’s Resource: “When journalists covering elections focus primarily on who’s winning or losing instead of policy issues — what’s known as horse race reporting — voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, a growing body of research has found….In fact, policy issues accounted for 10% of the news coverage of the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis Patterson did as part of a research series that looks at journalists’ work leading up to and during the election. The bulk of the reporting he examined concentrated on who was winning and losing and why….“The horserace has been the dominant theme of election news since the 1970s, when news organizations began to conduct their own election polls,” Patterson writes in his December 2016 working paper, “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters.”“Since then, polls have proliferated to the point where well over a hundred separate polls — more than a new poll each day — were reported in major news outlets during the 2016 general election.”….Academic research finds that horse race reporting is linked to:

  • Distrust in politicians.
  • Distrust of news outlets.
  • An uninformed electorate.
  • Inaccurate reporting of opinion poll data.

Horse race journalism can also:

  • Hurt female political candidates, who tend to focus on policy issues to build credibility.
  • Give an advantage to novel and unusual candidates.
  • Shortchange third-party candidates, who often are overlooked or ignored because their chances of winning are slim when compared with Republican and Democratic candidates.

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