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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In ‘follow the money’ news, Thomas B. Edsall writes at The New York Times: “A separate examination of the views of donors compared with the views of ordinary voters, “What Do Donors Want? Heterogeneity by Party and Policy Domain,” by David Broockman and Neil Malhotra, political scientists at Berkeley and Stanford, found: Republican donors’ views are especially conservative on economic issues relative to Republican citizens, but are typically closer to Republican citizens’ views on social issues. By contrast, Democratic donors’ views are especially liberal on social issues relative to Democratic citizens’, whereas their views on economic issues are typically closer to Democratic citizens’ views. Finally, both groups of donors are more pro-globalism than citizens are, but especially Democratic donors….Broockman and Malhotra made the case that these differences between voters and donors help explain a variety of puzzles in contemporary American politics, including: the Republican Party passing fiscally conservative policies that we show donors favor but which are unpopular even with Republican citizens; the focus of many Democratic Party campaigns on progressive social policies popular with donors, but that are less publicly popular than classic New Deal economic policies; and the popularity of anti-globalism candidates opposed by party establishments, such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Edsall notes, further, “Some of Broockman and Malhotra’s specific polling results: 52 percent of Republican donors strongly disagree that the government should make sure all Americans have health insurance, versus only 23 percent of Republican citizens. Significant differences were found on taxing millionaires, spending on the poor, enacting programs for those with low incomes — with Republican donors consistently more conservative than Republican voters.”

Edsall notes further, “On the Democratic side, donors were substantially more liberal than regular voters on abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control and especially on ending capital punishment, with 80 percent of donors in support, compared with 40 percent of regular voters….Broockman, Nicholas Carnes, Melody Crowder-Meyer and Christopher Skovron provided support for Persily’s view in their 2019 paper, “Why Local Party Leaders Don’t Support Nominating Centrists.” Broockman and his colleagues surveyed 1,118 county-level party leaders and found that “given the choice between a more centrist and more extreme candidate, they strongly prefer extremists, with Democrats doing so by about two to one and Republicans by 10 to one.”….If what Broockman and his co-authors found about local party leaders is a signal that polarized thinking is gaining strength at all levels of the Democratic and Republican Parties, the prospects for those seeking to restore sanity to American politics — or at least reduce extremism — look increasingly dismal.” While centrist funding sources may have given  up on GOP candidates, they may want to take a closer look at centrist Democratic candidates. They are certainly going to be able to find more potentially moderate candidates who are Democrats. Also, liberal Democrats and Democratic Party officials should keep in mind that their party can’t secure working majorities without more moderates in office.

Ronald Brownstein explains “Why Republican voters believe Trump” at CNN Politics: “Now, Trump has transformed his multiple indictments – particularly from Black prosecutors he has repeatedly called “racist” – into just the latest proof point for the widespread belief within the GOP base that the biggest victims of discrimination are the groups most of them belong to: Christians, men and Whites….“Victimhood is embedded in every part of Trump’s campaign, personality, communications, and strategy,” says Tresa Undem, a pollster for progressive causes. “The only thing that shifts is the topic and the object of blame.”….The choice by most GOP leaders and voters alike to rally around Trump amid 91 felony charges underscores again how much protection that sense of victimhood provides him against behavior previously considered fatal for any political leader….it also shows that Trump’s belligerent approach toward all the forces he says are threatening conservatives – from the “deep state” to the media and entertainment industry, to protesters in the Black Lives Matter and #metoo movements – will remain central to the GOP message, whether he stays the party’s principal figure or not….Overwhelming majorities of Republican voters dismiss the charges against Trump. In a comprehensive recent national survey by Bright Line Watch, a collaborative of political scientists studying threats to American democracy, 15% or fewer of Republicans said Trump had committed a crime either in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, his actions on January 6, 2021, or his hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016; only one-in-four thought he had broken the law in his handling of classified documents. And in the hush money and classified document cases, over four-fifths of Republicans agreed that “Trump would not have been prosecuted…if he were someone else.” A CBS/YouGov poll released Sunday recorded similar attitudes and produced one more head-turning finding: a bigger share of GOP voters said they trusted Trump to tell them the truth than any other source tested, including not only conservative media figures and religious leaders, but even their own “friends and family.”

Brownstein continues, “Some of the attitudes that have helped Trump delegitimize the charges with Republicans are recent; others are much more long-standing….In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan added another brick to the wall of distrust among Republicans specifically with his argument that government was not the solution to our challenges, but the problem….In Undem’s polling over the past few years, over four-fifths of Republicans have said that discrimination against Whites is now as big a problem as bias against minorities; three-fourths have described discrimination against Christians as a significant problem in US society; about seven-in-ten have said society now punishes men just for acting like men; and about two-thirds have described White men as the group most discriminated against in the modern US. Half of Republicans in her polling agreed with all four of those assertions, seven-in-ten agreed with at least three of them. Only one-in-20 Republicans rejected all of those ideas….Daniel Cox, a senior fellow in polling and public opinion at the center-right American Enterprise Institute, agrees that Trump’s bedrock base of conservative Whites without a college degree has grown more likely in recent years to view themselves rather than traditionally marginalized groups as the true victims of discrimination. But he argues those views are at least “partly rooted in reality….“My sense is that the folks who are most loyal to Trump—White non-college conservatives—see powerful cultural, political and economic institutions as no longer representing their interests or values-or worse, actively working against them,” Cox says. “It is not demographic alienation that drives their politics so much as the belief that media orgs look down on them, that the legal system and financial sectors operate to marginalize them, and the political system works to diminish them….It’s white Americans without college degrees who feel most acutely that there are no powerful interests looking out for them.” Brownstein continues, When Trump and other elected GOP officials assert that he cannot receive a fair trial in any jurisdiction that mostly votes Democratic, they are expressing what might be called a form of “soft secession” – the conviction that all the institutions tied to blue America are so hostile and malevolent that conservatives must fundamentally deny their legitimacy….Trump is the Republican most effectively riding that wave now, but it seems unlikely to recede whenever he fades from the political scene. Cox believes the claim that major institutions are now biased against conservatives will be “more pronounced” in the GOP while Trump is the party’s most powerful figure but agrees the alienation he’s drawing on will remain “pervasive” in the party with or without him.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Moderates still routinely win Democratic primaries. But they have to be higher turnout primaries.

    And you can’t run a white moderate candidate in a minority-majority district (the cases of AOC and Bowman).


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