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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Christian Paz explains “How independent voters saved Democrats” at Vox: “Democrats would not have had such a good election night without the support of independent voters….These mystical swing voters don’t affiliate themselves with a specific party, tend to be more ideologically moderate, and represent a plurality of voters in the United States. But they are also hard to reach, often less politically engaged, and frequently confused with “weak partisans” (less energetic Democrats or Republicans) because they can have ideological leans….They also tend to swing elections — and this year’s dissipation of the much-hyped “red wave” is partially a result of independent voters picking the Democratic candidate in competitive contests in swing states and districts….Despite plenty of polling this year showing that independents were, like Republicans, primarily concerned with the state of the economy and inflation, they ended up making nuanced decisions in key statewide races — and that worked to benefit Democrats….In data provided to Vox from Navigator’s midterm voters survey, those numbers show that for independent men, inflation was a top concern for half of them, while abortion was the top concern for 23 percent. Among women, inflation was the top concern for 46 percent of respondents, while abortion was close behind at 34 percent. Though the numbers differ slightly between Navigator’s finding and exit polls, the same 17-percent gender gap shows up: Independent men supported Republicans slightly more than Democrats, but independent women backed Democrats by a much bigger margin.”

Joan McCarter says “Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi need to channel Harry Reid right now, and fight for our future” and writes at Daily Kos: “The number one thing Pelosi and Schumer needed to deal with started a few months ago, when House Republicans began announcing their hostage-taking intentions. The over-confident GOP announced that they would force cuts to Social Security and Medicare by refusing to raise the nation’s debt ceiling next year, now likely in June. That’s the promise the U.S. government makes to all its creditors and to the American people that the payments that have been promised to them—from troops’ paychecks to monthly Social Security checks to global debt servicing—will be covered. Not extending those guarantees by raising the debt ceiling threatens the entire global economy….So what should they do? Channel former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and cancel Christmas….The threat would probably be enough to bring some recalcitrant members—possibly even some outgoing Senate Republicans—into line to get priorities taken care of. Like starting a budget reconciliation bill in the House right now that will include dealing with the debt ceiling, funding the government, and whatever other steps necessary for maniac-proofing the government. Yes, budget reconciliation bills take time, and can include all-night vote-a-ramas in the Senate. Do what Harry did, on multiple occasions: keep the Senate in session all night. Tell Senators they will have to be there all night. Let them know that if they don’t play nice, they may have to be there until Christmas Eve, just like Harry made them do to give the nationaccess to health care. The Affordable Care Act passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009, while a blizzard engulfed Washington, D.C. Threaten to do that again, this time to save Social Security….Make sure the whole nation knows that’s what you’re willing to do: forego your treasured time off, during the biggest holiday of the year, to make sure the programs that are so vital will continue, unharmed. Make House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s nightmare of a leadership fight even harder by focusing the nation’s ire on the House Republicans….Let Speaker Pelosi step away from the gavel having realized one last, huge achievement—saving Social Security….Be like Harry Reid. Fight.”

At The American Prospect, Austin Ahlman shares a provocative take on the midterm elections in his article, “Democrats Rediscover Populism—and Not a Moment Too Soon: As Republicans took a radical turn, Democrats learned to talk to normal people again.” As Ahlman writes that “there is one unifying explanation for why Democrats defied expectations and precedent—and perhaps there is not—it appears to be that the dire implications of losing the election cycle forced Democrats to do something they generally abhor: name enemies, and describe how they intend to beat them. Self-described moderate and centrist Democrats discovered a newfound willingness to attack the pharmaceutical industry, vote to threaten oil companies over their profit margins, and otherwise hold special interests to account. Clear enemies to women’s rights sitting on the Supreme Court, and enemies to democracy running for office, gave a sharper edge to Democratic messaging, and a real choice to voters….The newly resounding clarity of Democrats’ party-line messaging on economics—a phenomenon enabled by the Biden administration’s clear rejection of the constrained economic orthodoxies that guided the last two Democratic administrations—combined with Democrats’ attempt to build a popular front against Republicans’ growing authoritarianism could form the basis for a new populist Democratic movement. But it remains to be seen whether the party has the will to see that through….While Democrats largely succeeded in heading off a red wave, they fell short in areas where candidates failed to tell a cohesive and compelling story about the relationship between assaults on economic freedom and assaults on democracy and reproductive rights, especially with voters who were not facing immediate, tangible risks to their bodily autonomy or local democratic institutions. Those losses appear to have proved sufficient for the party to lose the House—stalling out any potential that Democrats will act on their bold rhetoric, and potentially souring their relationship with the voters persuaded by their message….But the encouraging number of candidates who managed to find success against daunting odds offers proof that the populist spark Democrats discovered this year may be their best shot in the future to build a broad enough coalition to pass significant pieces of the social and economic agenda Biden abandoned, and thwart ongoing attempts by Trumpists to bring a right-wing populist movement that openly flirts with authoritarianism into power.”

Ahlman adds, “In a press call in early October, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal relished the turn Democrats’ messaging had taken in the months leading up to the election. “The mainstream Democratic agenda has moved so much in terms of what we’re fighting for as a party, and that is really due to decades of organizing,” she told the Prospect in response to a question about her appraisal of Democrats’ overarching midterms message. She mentioned corporate price-gouging, antitrust reforms, and bans on insider trading as “key priorities of the Progressive Caucus.” Candidates, she suggested, would be wise to find specific examples in those veins that resonate with their constituencies, and really hammer those home….House Majority PAC, the largest Democratic outside spender for House races, has also been especially forward in claiming credit for Democrats’ messaging campaigns via ads that generally balanced populist economics with the myriad social issues that have motivated voters. PAC spokesperson C.J. Warnke recently indicated that across all spots the committee put out this year, economic issues featured in 48 percent of them, abortion in 42 percent, law enforcement in 22 percent, and extremism and the January 6th attack on the Capitol in 19 percent….Perhaps the best case for the centrality of populist economic messaging to Democrats’ success this midterm can be seen through the Democratic incumbents who didn’t succeed. The six sitting House Democrats who lost general-election bids—Cindy Axne, Tom O’Halleran, Al Lawson, Elaine Luria, Tom Malinowski, and Sean Patrick Maloney—are all consummate moderates and members of the centrist New Democrat Coalition. And five of the six ran behind President Biden’s 2020 performance with the voters in their districts; O’Halleran ran about even….Perhaps the biggest surprise winner of the cycle, Washington’s Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, cut a long video with anti-corporate news organization More Perfect Union that went to great lengths to highlight her background as a working-class auto shop owner who would fight to bring jobs back to southwest Washington. In the single ad posted on her campaign’s YouTube page, she made her populist pitch even more directly: “We don’t need another corporate shill or extremist in Congress. I will fight for working-class Washingtonians just like me.”….Democrats found a formula to counteract right-wing populism—if the leadership pays attention to the lessons.”

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