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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Melanie Zanona report “House Democrats weigh risky strategy: Whether to save McCarthy” at CNN Politics, and write: “While no decisions have been made, some of the party’s moderates are privately signaling they’d be willing to cut a deal to help McCarthy stave off a right-wing revolt – as long as the speaker meets their own demands….Publicly, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has not weighed in on how he’d want his members to manage a challenge to McCarthy’s speakership, saying it’s hypothetical at this point. But privately, Jeffries has counseled his members to keep their powder dry, according to multiple sources, a recognition it’s better for Democrats to keep their options open as the government funding fight plays outs.…“If somehow Democrats are asked to be helpful, it’s not just going to have to be out of the kindness of our hearts,” Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan, told CNN. “If Kevin can’t govern with just his part – which clearly he can’t – and he wants to have a conversation with us about how to do that, we are going to have a policy conversation.”….members who spoke to CNN made clear that any Democratic help would come at a cost. And their asking price for saving his speakership, Democratic members say, is a bipartisan deal to avoid a shutdown – a route McCarthy is not yet prepared to take, as Republicans are still trying to find consensus on a GOP plan to fund the government.” Um, Kevin, beggars can’t be choosers. “It’s a complicated dance for Democrats, who don’t want to be seen as saving McCarthy – especially after he just launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden – and could open them up to backlash on the left. But some Democrats also fear the potential alternative: a government shutdown and the prospect of an even more right-wing lawmaker ascending to the speakership if McCarthy is ousted – or the House being paralyzed with no candidate able to win 218 votes to be elected speaker.”

In “Is American Polarization a Reality or a Political Strategy?,” Carl Smith interviews Rachel Kleinfeld at governing.com and shares some of her comments in response to his questions: “Carnegie has just published a paper from [Rachel] Kleinfeld, Polarization, Democracy, and Political Violence in the United States: What the Research Says. It offers a detailed view of research on polarization, and what has been learned about the interplay between public attitudes, politics and political violence….“Americans are not as ideologically polarized as they believe themselves to be,” she finds, but emotions are being polarized for political purposes, leading to new levels of threats against state and local officials. “That makes it even more pertinent to get a handle on what’s going on and what we can do about it,” Kleinfeld says….”Party leaders have been selecting more extreme candidates for some time now — Democrats by maybe two to one and Republicans by a 13 to one margin, according to one study. Party leadership is playing a big role in how extreme our candidates are getting ideologically….Some of us are looking at things like getting rid of primaries and having ranked-choice voting, the way they’ve done it in Alaska, to create incentives for people to run in a less extreme way. Other academics are looking at things like proportional representation to try to get extremes out of politics….Threats are getting severe enough that they are deterring people from taking elected and appointed jobs, especially things like school board and city council, the grass roots that we need to function. We can’t run a democracy if good people don’t run for office.”

From “The GOP’s arsonists lost on the shutdown, but they’re not going away” by WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.: “If anyone doubts which party is extreme and which favors bipartisan accord, the roll call on McCarthy’s resolution provided a resounding data point. Even as their party’s speaker sought the two-thirds majority he needed in this last-minute process, only 126 Republicans voted with him; 90 voted no. Among Democrats, the vote was 209-1….None of which bodes well for the next 45 days, and not just because some way must be found to finance aid to Ukraine, left out of the resolution. Democrats remain angry that McCarthy broke the deal he reached with Biden earlier this year during debt ceiling negotiations. That deal, too, was passed with more Democratic than Republican votes. McCarthy effectively rewrote the deal on Saturday, saying he viewed those numbers as a ceiling and would seek further cuts. The country could face this crisis again….“There will not be a lot of Democrats eager to rescue a guy who broke his deal with Biden and is currently trying to impeach him,” [Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim] Himes said in an interview. But if McCarthy were willing to share power with Democrats, they “might be open to negotiating” to contain the far right….“We’re the party that fights chaos,” he added….It’s notable that Biden gave his democracy speech in Arizona in honor of the late Sen. John McCain, a Republican who always defended the idea of putting country over party — and who was hated by Trump. Biden spoke of the danger posed by those who would “shut down the government” and “burn the place down.”….On Saturday, enough House Republicans joined their party colleagues in the Senate and Democrats to keep the arsonists at bay. Given Trump’s hold on the party, alas, there are few signs that this will become a habit.”

Disagree if you must, but Paul Rosenberg has an eloquent scold for some progressive Democrats in his article, “Leftists, save yourselves! It’s a bad moment for nihilistic self-indulgence; The far-left bromance with RFK Jr. is only helping Trump. Remember how left-wing purity worked out in the 1930s?” at Salon. As Rosenberg writes, “There’s a vast range of legitimate political choices leftists can make, to be clear. I think it’s generally a bad idea for folks on the left to attack one another over strategic differences. We need strategic and ideological diversity, and we need to welcome and engage profound disagreements — that’s healthy. But it’s simply bad faith to call yourself a “leftist” while, in practical terms, you’re working to sabotage decades of hard-won, partial progress and allow fascists to win….Of course Biden is no leftist, and his party remains largely terrified of the left. But there’s more space for real progressives in the Democratic Party than there has been for decades. More to the point, it’s the only vehicle we have to get certain things done: That’s why Bernie Sanders has caucused with the Democrats throughout his career in the House and Senate, while remaining an independent….I’m completely fine with people who devote 99% of their political energy attacking Democrats from the left on climate, prison abolition, militarism, class politics, you name it. But set aside that crucial 1%, because sometimes (indeed, pretty often) you need to vote for Democrats in order to keep Republicans out of office and create space for all the other battles we need to fight. That’s my minimum standard for the non-suicidal left. Almost everything else is up for grabs….My first rule of thumb is not to echo right-wing tropes or draw on their deeper narratives or worldviews. It’s tempting to take advantage of supposedly popular images, ideas or themes, but we need to be hyper-vigilant about not empowering the right, particularly when the right’s counter-mobilization against social progress has gained so much strength on its own.”

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