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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall shares a scary warning about the GOP’s well-planned “authoritarianism.” Edsall writes “Theda Skocpol, a professor of political science and sociology at Harvard, contended that many of the developments in states controlled by Republicans are a result of careful, long-term planning by conservative strategists, particularly those in the Federalist Society, who are developing tools to build what she called “minority authoritarianism” within the context of a nominally democratic system of government….Skocpol outlined her thinking in an email: The first-movers who figured out how to configure this new “laboratory of democratic constriction” were legal eagles in the Federalist Society and beyond, because the key structural dynamic in the current G.O.P. gallop toward minority authoritarianism is the mutual interlock between post-2010 Republican control, often supermajority control, of dozens of state legislatures and the SCOTUS decision in 2019 to allow even the most extreme and bizarre forms of partisan gerrymandering….These organized, richly resourced actors, she wrote, have figured out how to rig the current U.S. system of federalism and divided branches, given generational and geographic realities on the ground, and the in many ways fluky 2016 presidential election gave them what they needed to put the interlock in place. They are stoking and using the fears and resentments of about half or so of the G.O.P. popular base to undo American democracy and enhance their own power and privileges. They are doing it because they can, and they believe in what they are doing. They are America’s G.O.P. Leninists.” Considering the recent follies of DeSantis, Abbot, Trump, Santos, Graham, Pence, MTG and hundreds of bomb-throwers in various state legislatures, there’s not a lot of room left the GOP clown car. They are going to need one of those long, accordion busses by Election Day 2024. In light of Skocpol’s insights, they are the distractor front men and women, while the organizers lay the groundwork for a takeover. To stop them, Dems are going to have to get smarter, better-organized and unified.

Speaking of ideological bomb-throwers in the state legislatures, read “Tennessee Republicans may have just handed a lifeline to Democrats” by Politico’s Liz Crampton, who explains: “A blue turnaround in Tennessee seemed like a pipe dream just a few weeks ago — and maybe still does. Democrats are outnumbered, out-resourced and hamstrung by a legislative map drawn to favor Republicans. It’s also a state that suffers from one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country….Party insiders and organizers are the first to concede just how bad they have it….“Nothing changes the fact that these districts are highly gerrymandered,” said Lisa Quigley, a former chief of staff to Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat who didn’t seek reelection after his district was effectively eliminated in redistricting last year. “It’s going to take some really smart organizing all over the state, because none of us vote very well.”….But if there was ever a moment when the party stood a chance, it’s now. The state Democratic Party has been flooded with donations and interest since the GOP started moving against three Democrats for participating in a gun safety protest on the state House floor, and ultimately expelling two of them last week for violating decorum rules….On the day that state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Black millennial freshmen, were kicked out of the Legislature, 33,000 people called into the state party office looking to get involved, Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus said. So far, nearly 10,000 have signed up to volunteer, he said in an interview, and hundreds of people have expressed interest in running for office — many in districts where Republican lawmakers ran unopposed in the midterms. More than half of Republican lawmakers serving in the statehouse today were uncontested in November.” TN’s right-wing bomb-throwers have just laid a shiny new political forklift at the door of the Dems — if they use it to help build wisely.

Regarding political investment strategy, check out “The Billionaire Gap in American Politics: Financiers on the American right marshal money in the relentless pursuit of power, while their left-leaning counterparts spend it on vanity projects” by Chris Lehman at The Nation. As Lehman observes, “financiers on the American right marshal money in the relentless pursuit of power, while their left-leaning counterparts spend it on vanity projects premised on the assumption that they already have power.” Lehman shines a revealing light on the past financial strategies of the right and left and observes, “The left-leaning donor world is much less ideologically driven, in part because it traffics in the more traditional philanthropic theology of “giving back” in a fundamentally settled social order—i.e., financing benevolent undertakings as a sort of spiritual reputation laundering for the filthy rich….In the age of neoliberal capitalism, charitable giving follows far more circumscribed channels of neoliberal policy, such as school privatization, agricultural microlending, and anything that can be depicted as technologically disruptive. Former New York Times reporter Anand Giridharadas chronicled this philanthropic turn in his 2018 book Winners Take All, which showed how signature liberal philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation now work to shore up the foundations of wealth inequality.” Nothing wrong with “benevolent undertakings” for a host of progressive projects. But Dems clearly need more sugar mommas and daddies focused on electing good candidates at the federal, state and local levels.

Kyle Kondik takes a look at “How the Other Half Votes: The Southwest” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We’re applying our top half/bottom half presidential voting analysis to 5 key states in the Southwest: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. Unfortunately, this method of analysis — comparing how a state’s biggest counties that cast roughly half the statewide vote have changed from 2012 to 2020 versus the bottom half counties that cast the remainder of the statewide vote — does not work well with Arizona and Nevada, the most competitive states in the region and 2 of the 7 states that were decided by less than 3 points in 2020. That’s because each has a single dominant county that casts considerably more than half of the statewide vote…As recently as 2004, George W. Bush carried all 5 of these states, but there’s been a Democratic trend in the region more broadly in the years since, with Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico voting Democratic in each of the last 4 elections, and traditionally Republican Arizona flipping to Joe Biden in 2020. Meanwhile, the megastate Texas — which now has 40 electoral votes — is showing signs of becoming markedly more competitive even as it is still clearly positioned to the right of the nation….Because Arizona and Nevada don’t really have comparable top and bottom halves to the other 3 states, we’re not going to rank these 5 states in comprehensive tables (like we did for the Midwest and East previously). However, we do have a few concluding takeaways:…— Clark County in Nevada is still more Democratic than Maricopa County in Arizona, but we could imagine the counties converging in the not-too-distant future. If that happened, Arizona would very likely move to the left of Nevada….— The top halves of both Colorado and New Mexico are both blue to varying degrees, and the bottom half of Colorado stands out as actually voting for Biden in 2020….— Democrats have made some progress in both the top and bottom halves of Texas, but they need the top half of Texas to look more like that of Georgia to win the state.”

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