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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Politico’s media critic Jack Shafer shares some insights about the January 6th hearings that will begin tonight in his article, “The Democrats Plan a Full Media Blowout Over Jan. 6.” Shafer writes, “When you turn on your television Thursday night to watch the kick-off of the January 6 congressional hearings, you won’t get the usual over-lit, droning Capitol Hill proceedings to which you’ve become accustomed. Instead, the committee intends to mount a grand media event, to pinch a phrase from scholars Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, a publicity extravaganza orchestrated like a product launch or political campaign to engage, dazzle and obsess the minds of the masses….This is not to say the hearings will be without substance. To the contrary, everything we’ve been told so far about the committee’s findings indicates they will bring real proof of a conspiracy to subvert the election of Joe Biden and stage a coup to reinstall Donald Trump as president. Talk about the greatest political story ever told! But while ingesting the substance of the hearings, which promise to be nourishing, don’t overlook the platter on which it has been served. The committee has assigned James Goldston, former president of ABC News and veteran of Nightline, to present a slickly produced work of political entertainment, featuring live testimony as well as prerecorded segments, that will permanently cast the events of January 6 as an attempted coup. According to the New York Times, Goldston’s mandate is to fashion the hearing into six succinct episodes. Sort of like a bingeable Netflix series….Even without the show-making skills of someone of Goldston’s caliber, a congressional hearing like the January 6 committee’s would qualify for the rubric, and it would be as worthy of our attention as previously televised proceedings from Congress — Kefauver’s organized crime hearings, Army-McCarthy, Iran-Contra, Benghazi and the doomed-before-the-final-vote impeachments of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (twice)….NBC, ABC, CBS, and the cable news networks have joined forces with Goldston to preempt their scheduled programming for the January 6 show, according to Axios’ Mike Allen, who broke the story of Goldston’s involvement. The timing of the hearings, just as summer rerun season starts, and the committee’s decision to present them as a “show,” couldn’t be more perfect from the television industry’s viewpoint. TV adores content that costs them almost nothing to air and attracts large audiences, media scholar Michael Socolow tells me, pointing to Trump rallies from the 2016 campaign….Even Rupert Murdoch intends to broadcast them, albeit on his less-watched Fox Business Network channel….Nobody should doubt the inherent newsworthiness of the January 6 hearings. Attempted coups matter. Nobody should seek to invalidate the hearings as a sophisticated media pageant before they convene. But the January 6 hearings deserve our advance scrutiny for the new ground they appear to be breaking. ”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein asks, “Is This the End of the George Floyd Moment?: The Los Angeles and San Francisco election results add pressure on Democrats to balance criminal-justice reform with public safety.” Brownstein observes: “Since the massive nationwide protests that erupted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, the debate over crime and public safety in the Democratic Party has been dominated by urgent calls for reforming police departments and confronting entrenched racial inequities in the criminal-justice system. History might record yesterday’s elections in San Francisco and Los Angeles as the end of that moment….The decisive recall of progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, and the strong showing of the billionaire former Republican developer Rick Caruso against Democratic Representative Karen Bass in the Los Angeles mayoral primary, likely will pressure Democrats at all levels of government to rebalance their message on criminal justice going forward. The results in California—combined with the former police officer Eric Adams’s victory in the New York mayoral race last fall—send a signal to Democrats that, even in some of their most reliable strongholds, voters are demanding a shift toward policies to combat crime and restore public order….“What you are really seeing is the Democratic base in cities is asserting its fundamental moderate values of prioritizing safety,” says Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University….The rising public demand for safety doesn’t mean Democrats are about to abandon the cause of criminal-justice reform and return to the “tough on crime” ethos of the 1990s. But it might prompt more leaders in the party to pull back from policies that appear to prioritize reform over public safety—the perception that doomed Boudin and also has triggered an ongoing recall effortagainst Los Angeles County’s progressive district attorney, George Gascón.”

Brownstein continues, “It was a brief moment and an excessive swing,” Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank, says of the push to reduce incarceration and reimagine, or even defund, policing. After Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis police, Marshall says, “we had this progressive reaction, and a lot of utopian thinking crept in. But the problem was to view a strong response to crime and public disorder through the narrow lens of racial politics. That missed something big, which is that low-income and minority communities are on the front lines of crime—they are the No. 1 victims. They don’t want police beating up on their sons, but they also don’t want to be ignored.” Polls in Los Angeles have shown high levels of concern about crime and disorder across racial lines.” However, brown stein notes, “Yesterday’s results do not represent a decisive lurch toward the right for these cities. In Los Angeles, Caruso was about five percentage points ahead of Bass as of this morning. But Bass remained close enough that many local observers believe she will remain highly competitive in November’s runoff, when the electorate will be larger and likely younger and more racially diverse. Also yesterday, Alex Villanueva, the scandal-plagued L.A. County sheriff who has become a hero to conservatives by blaming crime on “woke” liberal policies, was forced into a runoff that he might struggle to win after attracting only about one-third of the vote in the early returns. And young leftist challengers denouncing the police department and city efforts to clear homeless encampments mounted strong primary races against several centrist Democrats on the L.A. City Council, including Gil Cedillo and Mitch O’Farrell, with the latter likely headed to a runoff….Still, the results in the marquee contests—the San Francisco D.A. recall and the L.A. mayoral race—show how much discontent over crime and homelessness has shaken the political landscape in what are ordinarily two of America’s most liberal cities….Even if Caruso falls short in November, it would be a mistake for Democrats to ignore the message of his strong performance, combined with Adams’s victory last year and the backlash against Boudin and Gascón. All are reminders that, as Marshall puts it, most Americans believe “public order is the primary responsibility of government.” After yesterday’s primary results, it’s clearer than ever that in order to confront the criminal-justice system’s undeniable racial inequities, reformers must convince voters that they are equally committed to confronting threats to public safety.”

What are the prospects for gun safety reforms at the state level? Nicole Narea reports that “Red states aren’t following Florida’s lead on gun control” at Vox, and writes: “Republicans typically respond to mass shootings by loosening gun laws, not tightening them. But after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state became a model for how Republicans could implement gun control….Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law, later signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, that raised the age to buy long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period between when a firearm is purchased and when the buyer can get access to that gun; allowed trained school staff to carry guns; and put $400 million toward mental health services and school security. It also created an extreme risk law, or “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms — a measure that has gotten increasing attention in the wake of the recent streak of mass shootings as a policy solution that could draw bipartisan support nationally and in other states….The Florida law is a guidepost for ongoing negotiations over gun policy in the US Senate, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX)….“The template for Florida is the right one,” Murphy told CNN on Sunday. “Sen. Scott, then-Gov. Scott, passed that law in Florida because it was the right thing to do, but also because Republicans saw it as good politics. We have to make the case for Republicans that right now this is good politics.”….Florida’s red flag law has been identified as a potential model for other red states. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem as though there is a critical mass of Republicans who are interested in enacting red flag laws in states that don’t already have them. That’s true even in Texas and Oklahoma, where Republican lawmakers haven’t budged in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings.” However, “Today, said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, “Republicans have momentum, and I think that there’s just not a lot of interest in spending political capital on a gun safety bill, despite the fact that there are lots of reasons for it.” Democratic candidates in some congressional and state legislative districts may be able to get leverage from red state parents, who are fed-up with Republican candidates who cower at the NRA’s every whim.

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