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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Medicaid is popular. So why are Republicans still trying to cut it?,” Dylan Scott notes at Vox: For years, Republicans have believed that Medicaid, which primarily serves low-income Americans, is less politically potent than Medicare or Social Security, two of the other core features of the US social safety net, and therefore a safer target for proposed cuts….There may be some truth to that notion — but Medicaid is plenty popular on its own terms. Over the past two decades, the health insurance program has become an increasingly crucial part of the safety net. Enrollment has roughly doubled from about 46 million people in 2007 before the Great Recession to more than 92 million today. More than 75 percent of the US public says they have very or somewhat favorable views of the program. Two-thirds say they have some kind of connection to Medicaid, either because they themselves or a loved one was enrolled….In state after state, when the question of expanding Medicaid to working-age, childless adults has been put to voters in red states, they’ve voted in favor of giving more people access to health insurance. Even the Republican legislature in North Carolina recently made peace with expanding the program….The last time Republicans tried (and failed) to pass significant cuts to the Medicaid program, in the first year of the Trump presidency as part of their Affordable Care Act repeal plans, they paid the price during the 2018 midterm elections.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall takes a sobering look at the drift toward authoritarianism in America, and writes: “In an April 2021 paper, four scholars, Samuel Wang of Princeton, Jonathan Cervas of Carnegie Mellon, Bernard Grofman of the University of California, Irvine, and Keena Lipsitz of Queens College, address the basic question of what led to the erosion among a substantial number of voters of support for democratic principles in a nation with a two-century-plus commitment to this tradition:

In the United States, rules and institutions from 1790, when voters comprised white male landowners and slave owners in a nation of four million, were not designed to address today’s governance needs. Moreover, existing rules and institutions may amplify background conditions that drive polarization. The decline of civic life in America and the pluralism it once nurtured has hastened a collapse of dimensionality in the system.

Americans once enjoyed a rich associational life, Wang and his colleagues write, the demise of which contributes to the erosion of democracy: “Nonpolitical associations, such as labor unions, churches, and bowling leagues, were often crosscutting, bringing people from different backgrounds into contact with one another, building trust and teaching tolerance.” In recent years, however, “the groups that once structured a multidimensional issue space in the United States have collapsed.”

Edsall writes further, “Two senior fellows at Brookings, William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, explore threats to American democracy in a January 2022 analysis, “Is Democracy Failing and Putting Our Economy at Risk?” Citing data from six surveys, including those by Pew, P.R.R.I., Voter Study Group and CNN, the authors write:

Support in the United States for political violence is significant. In February 2021, 39 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats agreed that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” In November, 30 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats agreed that they might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Galston and Kamarck observe:

Even though constitutional processes prevailed, and Mr. Trump is no longer president, he and his followers continue to weaken American democracy by convincing many Americans to distrust the results of the election. About three-quarters of rank-and-file Republicans believe that there was massive fraud in 2020 and Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president.

In fact, Galston and Kamarck continue, “the 2020 election revealed structural weaknesses in the institutions designed to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process,” noting that “if Mr. Pence had yielded to then-President Trump’s pressure to act, the election would have been thrown into chaos and the Constitution placed in jeopardy.”….If democracy fails in America, they contend,

It will not be because a majority of Americans is demanding a nondemocratic form of government. It will be because an organized, purposeful minority seizes strategic positions within the system and subverts the substance of democracy while retaining its shell — while the majority isn’t well organized, or doesn’t care enough, to resist. The possibility that this will occur is far from remote.”

Should Senate Democrats ditch the “blue slip” tradition”? Jake Johnson makes the case for doing so at salon.com: “The Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday that he is not ready to ditch the arcane tradition that has given individual Republican lawmakers veto power over nominees for federal court seats in their home states….”We’re not at that point yet,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told HuffPost when asked if he’s considering scrapping the so-called “blue slip courtesy”—a non-binding rule that Republicans tossed aside for circuit court nominees when they last controlled the Senate….When a senator returns a blue slip, they are indicating they will allow a judicial nomination to proceed. Earlier this month, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., announced she would not be returning a blue slip for Scott Colom, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi….But Hyde-Smith’s decision, which effectively tanked Colom’s nomination even though he had bipartisan support in the Senate, wasn’t enough for Durbin to abandon the blue slip process—though he said earlier this week that “her conduct and the timing of her decision have made it extremely difficult” to preserve the tradition….On top of the extended and indefinite absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Durbin’s continued adherence to the blue slip rule has allowed Republicans to dramatically slow the judicial confirmation process, leaving open dozens of vacancies as right-wing judges they’ve approved in recent years wreak havoc across the country….”Democrats returned more than 130 blue slips during the Trump admin, confirming 84 district judges in states with at least one or two Dem senators,” [HuffPo’s Jennifer] Bendery wrote on Twitter. “More than two years into the Biden admin, Republicans have returned 13 blue slips. That’s as of last month.”….”Progressive judicial groups are practically shouting from the mountaintops to ditch blue slips,” Bendery continued. “Republicans did it for years with Trump’s court picks, as Dems fumed from the sidelines. The result? Trump confirmed a massive [number] of right-wing ideologues to lifetime court seats.”

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