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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Thomas B. Edsall’s latest New York Times column:”Poll data suggest that Democratic struggles with the white working class are worsening. In “Elections and Demography: Democrats Lose Ground, Need Strong Turnout,” an Oct. 22 American Enterprise institute report by Ruy Teixeira, Karlyn Bowman and Nate Moore write:

The gap between non-college and college whites continues to grow. For the first time this cycle, the difference in margin between the two has surpassed an astounding 40 points, well above the 33-point gap in 2020’s presidential contest. Republicans trail with white college voters by 13.6 points but lead with non-college whites by more than 27 points. Democrats appear stuck in the low 30s with non-college whites — no poll this month has them above 34 percent — so a repeat of Biden’s 37 percent mark appears unlikely.

David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. who has written on the role of the trade shocks that have driven white working-class voters into the arms of the Republican Party, described his assessment of the current mood of these voters in an email:

The class and cultural resentments that were inflamed by the China trade shock (alongside other technological, cultural, and political forces) are now so burned-in that I strongly suspect that they are self-perpetuating. Like a forest fire, these resentments and frustrations create their own wind that carries them forward. While the economic forces that initially fanned those flames might have abated for now, there is plenty of fuel left to consume.

Edsall writes, further, “In an April 2021 paper, “Why Does Globalization Fuel Populism? Economics, Culture, and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism,” [Harvard Kennedy School economist Daniu] Rodrik wrote that he studied

the characteristics of “switchers” in the 2016 presidential election — voters who switched to Trump in 2016 after having voted for Obama in 2012. While Republican voters were in general better off and associated themselves with higher social status, the switchers were different: they were worried about their economic circumstances and did not identify themselves with the upper social classes. Switchers viewed their economic and social status very differently from, and as much more precarious than, run-of-the-mill Republican voters for Trump. In addition to expressing concern about economic insecurity, switchers were also hostile to all aspects of globalization — trade, immigration, finance.

I asked Gordon Hanson, a professor of urban policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, whether there was any reason for these adverse economic trends to abate. “I see none,” he said, “at least in the medium run.”….The Democrats, he continued, “have come to be seen as the party of free trade, given President Clinton pushing through both NAFTA and China’s entry to the W.T.O. and President Obama championing the Trans-Pacific Partnership — they are seen as the engineers of manufacturing job loss.”

At The American Prospect, Stanley B. Greenberg identifies “The Crises That Overturned Our Politics” and argues that “Democrats embracing the battle is the first step to voters trusting Democrats to lead the nation.” Greenberg sees four major crises: “The first crisis was the spike in prices from the disrupted supply chains when countries came out of the pandemic. Second, an energy crisis produced by the war in Ukraine suddenly reduced Russian oil and natural gas supplied to the West….The third crisis was the climate crisis—the unrelenting extreme weather that started with the out-of-control fires in forest areas in Europe and California….Democratic or Republican, these crises have concentrated minds around the fourth crisis, the cost-of-living crisis that hit all countries in the world. Not surprisingly, that is the very top problem voters want government to address….It is time for our politics and politicians to catch up with a citizenry that has been shaken by these four crises. They see only greater uncertainty and stress, and worsened financial prospects. And they are looking for leaders and governments who understand all these intersecting crises and act to fundamentally change the direction of the country….That means an America that is providing families with fundamental supports like those they received during the pandemic and under Biden’s American Rescue Plan. That includes dependable health care subsidies and lower drug costs, the expanded Child Tax Credit and support for child care and home care. The citizenry wants greatly increased investment in the transition to low-carbon energy and oil giants having much less influence. The country wants America to use its unique energy resources and strategic strength to support Ukraine, aid Europe, and defeat Russia….That would say we are beginning to get on the right path.”

Timothy Noah has a worthy rant to share in his well-titled article, ““We” Don’t Have a Political Violence Problem. Republicans Do” at The New Republic: “Reasonable” Republicans like New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununusay America has a problem with political violence “on both sides of the aisle.” That isn’t true. America has a problem with political violence against Democrats….The proof lies in what unreasonable Republicans have been saying since Paul Pelosi, 82, got his skull cracked at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning by a hammer-wielding QAnon enthusiast shouting, “Where is Nancy?” Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a photograph of a hammer and a pair of underwear—an early news report, since corrected, said the attacker was stripped to his underwear—captioned, “Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready.”….The numbers aren’t discussed as often as they should be because most nonpartisan news organizations think it’s bad manners to document their lopsidedness. But let’s get real: “Domestic terrorism” has become a polite euphemism for “right-wing extremism.” The Anti-Defamation League counted 29 people killed in the United States by political extremists in 2021; of those, 26 were killed by right-wing extremists….nearly three times as many Republicans as Democrats approve of political violence, according to a November 2021 poll by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute….According to the Capitol Police, between 2017 to 2021 the number of threats against sitting members of Congress increased from 3,939 to 9,625. The Capitol Police don’t furnish a breakdown by party, but a New York Times analysis earlier this month of threats that ended in indictments found that more than one-third were made by Republicans or other MAGA types against Democrats, compared to fewer than one-quarter made by Democrats against Republicans….If election workers are injured or killed in the course of tallying the results on November 8, we may see more hand-wringing about the problem of political violence in America. But it’s a near certainty that this violence won’t emanate from “both sides of the aisle.” It will be from a Republican Party that has lost its mind. Failure to acknowledge this will guarantee that the problem persists.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Stanley Greenberg argues that the citizenry wants dependable health care subsidies, lower drug prices, and greatly increased investment in the transition to low-carbon energy. This year’s Inflation Reduction Act does all of that and funds it with a new corporate income tax on the largest businesses. This is why the Congressional Democrats, who enacted the Inflation Reduction Act, have no electoral difficulties this year and can expect a resounding victory in next week’s election.


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