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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should get ready for ever-increasing GOP efforts to suppress the votes of college students. Charley Mahtesian and Madi Alexander write in “‘This Is a Really Big Deal’: How College Towns Are Decimating the GOP” at Politico that “In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal college counties….are flexing their muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They’ve already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue — and they could play an equally decisive role in key swing states next year….Name the flagship university — Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, among others — and the story tends to be the same. If the surrounding county was a reliable source of Democratic votes in the past, it’s a landslide county now. There are exceptions to the rule, particularly in the states with the most conservative voting habits. But even in reliably red places like South Carolina, Montana and Texas, you’ll find at least one college-oriented county producing ever larger Democratic margins.” Mahtesian and Alexander dive into the specifics of several college towns and the counties where they are located, and it’s all bad news for the GOP. They note further that “The American Communities Project, which has developed a typology of counties, designates 171 independent cities and counties as “college towns….Of those 171 places, 38 have flipped from red to blue since the 2000 presidential election. Just seven flipped the other way, from blue to red, and typically by smaller margins. Democrats grew their percentage point margins in 117 counties, while 54 counties grew redder. By raw votes, the difference was just as stark: The counties that grew bluer increased their margins by an average of 16,253, while Republicans increased their margins by an average of 4,063….None of this has gone unnoticed by the GOP, which is responding in ways that reach beyond traditional tensions between conservative lawmakers and liberal universities — such as targeting students’ voting rights, creating additional barriers to voter access or redrawing maps to dilute or limit the power of college communities. But there are limits to what those efforts can accomplish. They aren’t geared toward growing the GOP vote, merely toward suppressing Democratic totals. And they aren’t addressing the structural problems created by the rising tide of college-town votes — students are only part of the overall phenomenon.”

The dccc.org web pages have an exposé of some of the Republican House members who voted against expansion of high speed internet, which would lower costs for their constituents. An excerpt: “REMINDER: David Valadao Voted Against Expanding High-Speed Internet and Lowering Costs in CA-22.  “Today, the DCCC is reminding voters in CA-22 that David Valadao voted against the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which just announced massive savings for 2,298,429 California families…The ACP will expand high-speed internet access to help qualified households in California save up to $30 a month on internet costs….More than 14 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet. This massive investment in California will provide families tools to access jobs, education, health care services, and more. House Democrats are laser-focused on lowering costs, creating better-paying jobs, and expanding opportunity in every zip code – unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Valadao.DCCC Spokesperson Viet Shelton: “David Valadao’s vote against lowering costs for Californians is just another indication of his failure to deliver. While Valadao is spending time in the House majority chipping away at reproductive freedom and petty political fights, House Democrats are taking bold action to lower costs and deliver for everyday families.The DCCC post features similar exposes with links to more detailed reports for Republican House members: Mike Garcia (CA-27); Young Kim (CA-40); Ken Calvert (CVA-41); Michelle Steele (CA-45); Scott Perry (PA-10); Bryan Steil (WI-1); Lauren Boebert (CO-3); Marionette Miller-Meeks (IA-1); and David Schweikert (AZ-1). Citizens and journalists in these districts are invited to ‘share their shame.’

At Yahoo News Marquis Francis and Andrew Romano report that “As public support for reparations for African Americans remains stubbornly low, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll reveals one major roadblock: Donald Trump voters believe that racism against white Americans has become a bigger problem than racism against Black Americans….The survey of 1,638 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 13-17, shows that among 2020 Trump voters, 62% say that racism against Black Americans is a problem today — while 73% say that racism against white Americans is a problem….Asked how much of a problem racism currently is, just 19% of Trump voters describe racism against Black Americans as a “big problem.” Twice as many (37%) say racism against white Americans is a big problem….Trump voters and self-identified Republicans — overlapping but not identical cohorts — are the only demographic groups identified by Yahoo News and YouGov who are more likely to say racism against white Americans is a problem than to say the same about racism against Black Americans. A majority (51%) of white Americans, for instance, think racism against people who look like them is a problem — but overall, far more white Americans (72%) say racism against Black Americans is a problem.” Perhaps rigorous analysis of the phrasing of the questions would help shed more light on the survey responses. The poll will likely fuel heated discussions about affirmative action, reparations, set-asides and other compensatory programs based on racial discrimination. But creative policy ideas like affirmative action based on socio-economic status could help build bridges between racial groups for coalition action.

Speaking of coalitions, one of the enduring truths of politics is that no interest group can achieve its top political goals without some support from other groups. All too often interest groups become so narrowly-focused that they alienate potential supporters who perceive something like ‘Well their goal seems reasonable enough, but they don’t care about me, so I’m not going to do anything to help them.” Republicans have skillfully exploited this tendency with a range of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics for decades. The antidote is a conscious effort to build coalitions of diverse interest groups rooted in the understanding that we can all do better if we help each other. MLK had an eloquent take on what he termed “the art of alliance.” Among his insights: “The future of the deep structural change we seek…lies in new alliances.” Also, “The ability of Negroes to enter alliances is a mark of our growing strength, not of our weaknesses” and “In a multiracial society, no group can make it alone…To succeed in a pluralistic society, and an often hostile one at that, the Negro obviously needs organized strength, but this strength will only be effective when it is consolidated through constructive alliances with the majority group.” Further, said King, “A true alliance is based upon some self-interest of each component group and a common interest into which they merge. For an alliance to have permanence and loyal commitment from its various elements, each of them must have a goal from which it benefits and none must have an outlook in basic conflict with the others….If we employ the principle of selectivity along these lines, we will find millions of allies who in serving themselves also support us, and on such sound foundations unity and mutual trust and tangible accomplishment will flourish.” After Dr. King was assassinated, his widow, Coretta Scott King  leveraged these principles in working with multi-racial coalitions for a wide variety of progressive causes. By the time she organized the 20th Anniversary March on Washington in 1983, she secured the endorsements of more than 800 diverse organizations for the MLK holiday. Not a bad template for a stronger Democratic Party.

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