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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Vox, Nicole Narea explains “Why Biden is deploying more troops to the southern border“: “Set to expire May 11, the so-called Title 42 policy was first implemented by former President Donald Trump on dubious grounds that migrants could be turned away to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. But the policy has continued for more than two years under Biden, has led to lawsuits and the resignation of a senior administration official, and has become a political flashpoint on the left….Now, as Title 42 ends, the new troops will be stationed for 90 days alongside the 2,500 military personnel already at the border. Some Democrats have condemned Biden’s decision to maintain the policy for so long and to further militarize the border. But others — particularly those in purple states who could face tough reelection fights — have backed the president’s strategy, which is designed to protect him from right-wing attacks as he runs for reelection….Progressive Democrats and those who have long been working on immigration issues have been openly critical of the president’s move to further militarize the border….Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), however, has long been pushing the Biden administration to take a stronger stance on the border. Last year, he was among a bipartisan group of senators who introduced a bill that would have temporarily preserved the Title 42 policy. And in an interview with Newsweek on Tuesday, Kelly called for tougher border security measures, urging Congress to take up the issue. He proposed increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, improving technology at the border, and constructing new barriers in places “where they make sense” to deter unauthorized crossings….Border security should be a priority for Democrats as they look toward 2024, rather than capitulating to progressives who have previously called for abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at the center-left think tank Third Way….“It is important for Biden and congressional Democrats to show voters that they care as much about a secure border as they do about the plight of undocumented immigrants in the country and those now seeking asylum,” he said. “Moving troops to the border in an administrative role is a smart move for Biden, particularly as we near the end to Title 42.”

Can Biden Win Over the ‘Meh’ Voters Again in 2024?,” Amy Walter asks at The Cook Political Report. Her response: “For the first time in memory, low approval ratings of a sitting president didn’t cause a disaster for his party in a midterm election. Many Democratic candidates in 2022 succeeded in winning over voters who “somewhat” disapproved of Biden — a group I dubbed last fall as the ‘meh’ voters. Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden both came into their first midterm election with similar job approval ratings (44% approve to 55% disapprove). But, according to exit polls, among those who “somewhat” disapproved of Biden, 49% voted for the Democrat and 45% voted for the Republican. In 2018, those “somewhat” disapprovers of Trump voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate (63% to 34%)….Today, Biden’s job approval ratings aren’t any stronger than they were in 2022. That leads us to wonder if these ‘meh’ voters will again be critical to Democrats’ success in 2024. And, if so, is a president’s job approval rating — once considered a critical metric in assessing his reelection chances — no longer pertinent…” Walter cites several polls indicating President Biden’t unimpressive approval ratings, but writes that “as we saw in 2022, those who “somewhat” disapprove of the job Biden is doing overwhelmingly back him for reelection. According to the Quinnipiac survey, the 13% of voters who “somewhat” disapprove of Biden say they’ll vote for him by an 11-point margin (48% to 37%) over Trump. The Wall Street Journal poll showed similar results. The 8% of respondents who “somewhat” disapprove of Biden on job approval pick Biden over Trump in a head-to-head matchup, 66% to 19%….Trump, meanwhile, does not get support from the “somewhat” disapprovers. According to data from the Wall Street Journal, those who “somewhat” disapprove of Trump picked Biden over Trump, 56% to 18%….Even up against DeSantis — who is not as well known as Trump — Biden still wins over most of the “somewhat” disapprovers. In the Quinnipiac survey, “somewhat” disapprovers supported Biden over DeSantis by 19 points (54% to 35%). In the Wall Street Journal survey, those who “somewhat” disapprove of Biden picked him over DeSantis, 50% to 32%.” Dems won’t find much comfort in the rest of Walter’s article. True, Biden and Democrats’ re-election prospects could be worse. But Dems have plenty of work to do to make their prospects better.

Most politically-attentive people know that the GOP opposes labor unions because their corporate contributors reap billions of dollars in profits by keeping wages low. But Republicans do their best to crush labor unions also because they know that unions make substantial financial contributions to Democratic candidates, and even more important, unions provide significant manpower to boost Democratic voter turnout. So Republicans are not going to like a new study by the Center for American Progress which provides compelling data showing that “being part of a union is associated with greater wealth for working-class families—defined as households without a four-year college degree—and especially working-class families of color. Because of this effect, unions are a crucial means for building wealth among the working class and reducing racial wealth gaps for workers without four-year college degrees. The key findings of this report include:

  • Working-class union households hold nearly four times as much median wealth ($201,240) as the typical working-class nonunion household ($52,221), suggesting that membership vastly increases wealth for working-class families.
  • Union membership helps close the wealth gap between working class and college-educated households. While the median wealth of working-class nonunion households is just 17 percent that of college-educated nonunion households, the median wealth of working-class union households is 67 percent that of college-educated nonunion households.
  • Union membership is tied to large dollar gains for all workers, but working families of color enjoy the largest percentage of gains. White working-class union families hold more than three times as much wealth as working-class nonunion households, while Black families hold more than four times as much wealth, nonwhite Hispanic families more than five times as much wealth, and families of other or multiple races or ethnicities have in excess of seven times as much wealth.
  • Working-class families of all races and ethnicities are far more likely to own their own homes when part of a union.

The study concludes:

Unions offer a crucial means for strengthening the wealth of working-class families and narrowing racial wealth gaps among the working class. Policymakers have made strides in starting to craft policies to create quality jobs for the working class, most notably through the economic legislation passed by the Biden administration as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act….While it is possible that union members are simply more likely to work in higher-paying jobs or industries, as union density can vary considerably across sectors, a large body of research has shown that unions increase wages and other factors that allow households to build and maintain wealth.

For a deeper dive into the study, read  “Unions Build Wealth for the American Working Class: Union membership not only increases wealth for working-class families but also narrows racial wealth gaps and offers a path to the middle class” by Aurelia Glass, David Madland and Christian E. Weller at americanprogress.org.

The Washington Monthly’s Bill Scher is pretty confident that “Despite Age, Inflation Biden Is (Probably) Going to Win,” and writes that “Historical evidence suggests that a lot must go wrong for an elected incumbent president to lose.” Scher provides a review of past elections, including the seven times presidents were defeated in their re-election campaigns, and observes “Biden’s economic performance does not resemble any of these examples. Gross domestic product has grown approximately three percent during each of the last two quarters (following two quarters of negative growth at the beginning of 2022 but strong growth in 2021). Unemployment hit a record low of 3.4 percent in February and is only a tick higher in March….Some forecasters see negative growth for 2023, such as Bloomberg’s in-house economists, who project, “Our baseline outlook is for an impending recession—and we see no shortage of additional downside risks.” But other presidents who have been reelected weathered periods of contraction during their first terms. These include Dwight Eisenhower (late 1953 and early 1954, as well as the first and third quarters of 1956), Richard Nixon (parts of 1969 and 1970), Ronald Reagan (late 1981 and much of 1982), and Barack Obama (first and third quarters of 2011, not to the mention the harrowing declines of the Great Recession in 2009). Eisenhower, Nixon, and George W. Bush each had higher unemployment rates when they faced voters for the second time than when they began their presidencies. Despite the imperfections, these presidents could still credibly claim that by Election Day that voters were better off economically than they were four years earlier.” However, “The Biden record does have a glaring weak spot: inflation, which peaked last June at 9.1 percent (meaning prices in June 2022 were 9.1 percent higher than in June 2021). But thanks to the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases and the restoration of global supply chains, that inflation metric as of March has declined to 5 percent. The Fed’s rate hikes may contribute to weak or negative GDP growth this year. However, if inflation is contained, prompting the Fed to lower interest rates by early next year, healthy growth could resume just in time. As Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove noted in response to the recession forecast, “If a recession hits in coming months, the economy could be back on the upswing by the middle of next year. The conventional wisdom is that’s when voters start making up their minds.” Scher presents more data and analysis to undergird his argument. I always worry about overconfidence leading to complacency, which feeds defeat. But Scher’s article can be milked for well-stated talking points Democratic campaigns can use to good effect.

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