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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At his blog, No Mercy/No Malice, business analyst Scott Galloway crunches some numbers and logic in his post “Trump and Math,” and writes: “I don’t know, nobody does. However, I believe it is increasingly likely Donald Trump withdraws from the race for president as the result of a plea deal. Why? A: math….Facing prosecutions in at least three jurisdictions, it’s likely, if he is not reelected, Trump will be tried, convicted, and sent to prison. I don’t believe this will happen, as a plea deal serves everyone’s interests. Trump and the prosecutors, I speculate, will settle for a lifetime ban on serving in public office in exchange for the resolution of criminal proceedings against him. As the political map comes into focus, a plea deal will emerge as the best outcome for Trump. And as the knock-on effects of imprisoning a former president become a reality, a deal will also become the best (or least bad) outcome for the nation….President Trump is an obese 77-year-old male. Any sentence to a prison facility is likely a death sentence. Attorneys general wield the power of possible incarceration. Even more compelling? The prospect of survival — avoiding death behind bars. Incarceration, balanced against a life (post-deal) of golf clubs, sycophants, and porn stars weighs heavily on even the most delusional psyche….Federal prosecutors rarely lose: In 2021, 94% of defendants charged with a federal felony were convicted. State and local prosecutors convict at high rates as well — the Atlanta office expected to indict Trump boasts a 90% conviction rate. Of those convicted by the feds, 74% received prison time. In cases for mishandling national security documents specifically, the DOJ regularly obtains multiyear prison sentences. And the documents case against the former president is notable for the weight of the evidence, including audio of him sharing military secrets he admits he hadn’t declassified, the sensitivity of the papers, and his blatant obstruction — offenses the DOJ and courts take very seriously….It’s not any one case that cements Trump’s fate, but the compounding risk of several (indictments). Generally, defendants have a 3 in 10 chance of escaping an indictment without prison. A 30% chance of prevailing, four times in a row, is just under 1%.”

Galloway rolls out some caveats, including Trump’s formidable economic resources, possible legalistic glitches and the difficulty of selecting a jury that doesn’t have at least one bull-headed Trumper. Galloway adds, “Still, let’s improve his odds of exoneration from 3 in 10 to 8 in 10 — only a 20% chance in each case that he’s convicted and sent to prison. The math is still ugly: 0.8 = 0.41 which means Trump has only a 41% chance of escaping prison, even when given remarkably favorable, exceptional, odds. The most favorable math still lands him in prison.” Galloway sees two potential ‘get out of jail cards,’ for Trump: “1) He retakes the White House, or 2) he (see above) reaches a plea deal.” There may also be a delayed ‘get out of jail’ card: Biden wins, then, after a while, pardons Trump for his federal convictions after he does some time. Pardons for state convictions would have to be negotiated with Governors. A lot of Democrats are hoping for an orange jump suit perp walk for Trump. After that, the appeal of Trump behind bars until his demise would have a limited shelf-life for many. Not much political cost to a term-limited Biden for being Mr. Nice Guy after a few months and making a gesture of reconciliation toward Trump’s supporters. The central goal of getting Trump and his democracy-trashing coterie permanently out of political office would have more enduring value, as would the lesson learned about the onerous personal costs of getting involved in coups against democracy. Of course, none of these scenarios may materialize. In any case, the important strategic play for Democrats is to seize every opportunity to leverage Trump’s mess to make possible a Democratic landslide that includes deep down-ballot victories. Democrats haven’t had a high-functioning, working majority of congress since the days of LBJ. Imagine what Biden’s second term could do with one.

In “Don’t Expect Biden to Get Credit for the Economy Anytime Soon,” Bill Scher explains at The Washington Monthly: “Despite near-record low unemployment, respectable Gross Domestic Productgrowth, wages outpacing inflation, and disposable personal income rising, Joe Biden’s job approval numbers have been stuck in the low 40s. Even more perplexing, approval for his handling of the economy is usually a tick worse than his overall job approval….In turn, several commentators are openly wondering: Why hasn’t Biden gotten credit for the improving economy?…But the better question is: How long does it take for any president to get credit for an improving economy?…But to expect Biden to reap immediate political benefits is unrealistic, considering recent history. Prices have been rising for over two years. During that period, wages have outpaced inflation only in the last two months (even though, as Washington Monthly contributing writer Rob Shapiro has noted, inflation-adjusted disposable personal income has been rising since the middle of last year). Past presidents have needed much longer stretches of good economic data before the public gets generous with political credit….Furthermore, what people feel about the economy often differs from what the data shows. A mid-1990s survey project conducted by the Washington Post, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University found that in the summer of 1996, when GDP growth was robust, 42 percent of respondents felt the economy was only growing slowly, while another 37 percent believed the economy was either stagnant, in recession, or depression. So even if you are dismayed, don’t be surprised by the newly released July CNN poll showing that 51 percent think “the economy is still in a downturn….The Post/Kaiser/Harvard researchers offered several possible reasons for the disconnect between positive economic data and public acceptance, one of which was “the media tend to emphasize the aspects of the economy that are getting worse and to pay less attention to the evidence that the economy is improving.” That’s why presidents should aggressively sell their own story, as Biden has begun to do with his “Bidenomics” strategy, and not expect the press to connect the data points.”

Alice Chapman and Yurij Rudensky flag “A Brazen Attack on Direct Democracy in Ohio” at the Brennan Center webpage. Subtitled “Conservative legislators are seeking to end majority rule by slipping in a constitutional amendment in a low-turnout August special election,” their article explain ns, “For decades, conservatives in Ohio have kept themselves in charge through extreme gerrymandering. But that’s not enough for them. Now this supermajority is going after one of the few remaining checks on their power: the citizen ballot initiative, a state constitutional right since 1912 that enables Ohio voters to enact state laws directly, without legislative approval. The conservative legislators are aiming to make the ballot initiative so difficult to pull off that voters will fail or will be too daunted to try. To enact these changes, lawmakers need to get a proposed constitutional amendment past voters. So they’ve called a special election on … August 8, a sleepy time when voter turnout is low. This is a sneak attack on democracy….Early voting is already underway on Issue 1, the measure that, if passed, would make future ballot initiatives difficult if not impossible to introduce and pass. The amendment would add onerous signature-collection requirements and require a 60 percent supermajority vote for passage. Just as threats to undermine election results are on the rise, partisan extremists are also looking to steal power away from voters by taking away this form of direct democracy….In Ohio, the strategy is clear: Put an unpopular antidemocratic measure to a vote in a month when families are on summer vacation, college students are away, and turnout is notoriously low. Describe it on the ballot in confusing language. Then count on out-of-state billionaires to flood the airways with ads to drive a small segment of voters to the polls. Illinois billionaire Richard Uhlein, fresh from bankrolling election denialist candidates and Jan. 6 insurrectionists, donated $4 million dollars….The legislature’s effort to restrict citizen initiatives is part of an alarming national trend. Ohio is following a playbook from ArizonaNorth DakotaFlorida, and Wisconsin, among others to erode an American tradition that for more than a century has served as a bulwark for democracy….Precisely because referenda have served as a check against gerrymandered legislatures and other political corruption, they’re now squarely in the crosshairs of powerful politicians.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Bill Scher is right. You cannot expect people to be thrilled at wages rising faster than inflation for two months after losing ground to inflation for two years. What’s more, the losses to inflation were much greater than the recent gain. In mid-2021, when inflation was 5.4%, President Biden called it “transitory.” Then it persisted for two years, rising as high as 9.1%, and only recently subsided to 3%. Since the President was so badly mistaken then, why should people believe him now?


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