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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“To comment on this intra-left controversy risks distorting the political stakes,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column, “Empathy for Palestinians cannot mean sympathy for Hamas.” Dionne cites “a rare consensus in mainstream politics that Hamas’s terrorism was “an act of sheer evil,” as President Biden said in his powerful speech on Tuesday. Little pockets of sympathy for Hamas will have no effect on U.S. politics going forward. The important contrast is between the moral and strategic seriousness of Biden’s response and the petty, unhinged and self-involved rantings of Donald Trump. Maybe, just maybe, Americans pondering a vote for the former president will see more clearly that returning him to the White House would be an act of democratic suicide….The sharp turn to the right in Israel that Netanyahu engineered has undercut support for the country among younger Americans in the United States. Most of these increasingly vocal critics have resisted supporting Hamas, but the gut liberal sympathy for Israel has largely disappeared among those born after Biden’s generation and mine. If Hamas’s shameful attack has mostly restored consensus in the Democratic Party around the need to defend Israel against mass terrorism, the underlying opposition to Israel’s settlement policies and its refusal to engage with Palestinian demands for self-determination remains….The shock of these traumatic events should shake everyone into a reassessment rooted in moral realism. As my Post colleague Max Bootargued last week, the imperative of accountability should lead eventually to Netanyahu’s ouster. Even as supporters of Israel stand up for its right to self-defense, analysts with long experience in the Middle East, including Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times and The Post’s David Ignatius, warn of the dangers of overreach in Gaza. Having reported alongside them and learned from them during the war in Lebanon in the 1980s, I share their skepticism of grand military plans that promise to settle a conflict for good. We have seen too many such promises fail in the Middle East. And Biden was right in his speech to call attention to moral obligations that apply even in legitimate wars of self-preservation….The left should not stop advocating on behalf of justice for Palestinians. And Israel’s center and left should not stop demanding that Netanyahu’s plans to undercut the country’s judiciary be shelved permanently. But terrorism will not create a more democratic Israel or lead to self-determination for Palestinians. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is rife with ambiguities and conflicting moral claims. This cannot be said of what Hamas did. Its actions are, exactly as Biden said, unambiguously evil.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall flags an important study, “24 for ’24: Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech for Fair and Legitimate 2024 U.S. Elections,” and here are some excerpts from the Executive Summary: “Over the last two decades, hyperpolarized politics and very close elections have led to fights over election rules and controversy over the administration of U.S. elections. The emergence of these “voting wars” has caused some people, especially those on the losing end of election battles, to question the fairness and integrity of the systems and rules used for conducting elections and tabulating results. This crisis of confidence emerged even as election administration has become more professionalized and even after some of the worst-performing voting systems were taken out of service….Concerns about election fairness and legitimacy exploded during and after the 2020 elections. That election was conducted during a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and as one of the two major presidential candidates, Donald J. Trump, repeatedly made false and unsubstantiated claims against the integrity of the electoral process. After losing the election, Trump and his allies engaged in an unprecedented series of maneuvers in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential results. All reliable evidence indicates that the election was conducted without widespread fraud or irregularities under difficult circumstances….No longer can we take for granted that people will accept election results as legitimate. The United States faces continued threats to peaceful transitions of power after election authorities (or courts) have declared a presidential election winner….Variation and fragmentation of authority leave ample room for litigation in the case of close election results….After public meetings and further online deliberations, this Committee makes the following 24 recommendations for immediate change that should be implemented to increase the fairness and help bolster the legitimacy of the 2024 elections. These recommendation are aimed collectively at assuring access to the ballot for all eligible voters, protecting election integrity, and enhancing the public’s confidence in the fairness of the election and the accuracy of the results.* Read the report here for the specific 24 recommendations.

Should Democrats get more involved in helping to pick the next House Speaker? It’s a tricky strategic question. It’s so much fun to watch the Jim Jordan follies. And there is the saying, “When your adversary is committing political suicide, get out of the way.” But at a certain point, might the public get pissed off that Democrats don’t use what leverage they can muster to prevent the next government shutdown from happening. Perhaps the strategy is to let the Republicans keep branding themselves as incompetent and incapable of governing for a while, and then create a coalition that can elect a more moderate Republican speaker. It’s doubtful that the House is going to pass anything anyway. As Justin Papp writes at Roll Call, “In fact, there’s some shiny silver lining visible in the depths of Republican dysfunction, Crockett and other Democrats said. “There is no campaign slogan, there is no messaging the Democrats could ever do, to better demonstrate who the modern day Republican Party is,” Crockett said….“It’s not good for our country, and it’s not good for the world,” said New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, who chairs the New Democrat Coalition, of a potential Jim Jordan speakership. “But winning the majority in 2024 just got a whole hell-of-a-lot easier.”….with an important election approaching next November and a razor-thin GOP House majority, some Democratic lawmakers and strategists are salivating over what they view as unforced Republican errors….“There’s almost no doubt that this type of dysfunction and chaos among Republicans will benefit Democrats,” said Brad Woodhouse, a Democratic strategist….“By tying their political futures to an election-denying, anti-law enforcement, pro-shutdown far-right extremist, these so-called moderates are hand-delivering the DCCC content for campaign ads ahead of next year but, more importantly, they are doing a grave disservice to their country,” said Viet Shelton, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee….“There will be tens of millions of campaign dollars making sure voters are aware of the GOP’s further lurch toward autocracy and lunacy,” Jeff Timmer, a senior adviser with the center-right Lincoln Project, said via email Monday. “Not only will this doom the 18 Rs in Biden districts, it’s going to imperil other marginal Rs … in ways they don’t yet comprehend.”

Papp continues, “Democrats, in response, have begun making their own chess moves, launching campaigns Monday targeting Jordan and drawing attention to his role in spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election in the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol; his staunchly antiabortion stance; and the allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual assault while he coached wrestling at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s….On Monday, House Majority Forward, the nonprofit wing of House Democrats’ leading super PAC, launched robocalls in 11 districts — many of which are seen as highly competitive in 2024 — urging House Republicans to vote against Jordan as speaker….“Republicans have nominated Jim Jordan for Speaker, who voted to overturn the 2020 election, defended the criminals who attacked the Capitol on January 6th, and is in favor of an extreme agenda to ban abortion nationwide, cut veteran benefits by 22%, eliminate health insurance for 21 million Americans, and fire 108,000 school teachers and aides,” the robocall says….The calls targeted Reps. David Schweikert and Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, Bill Huizenga and John James in Michigan, and Nick LaLota, George Santos, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Elise Stefanik and Brandon Williams, all from New York….Also on Monday, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced a six-figure ad buy in support of Virginia state Democrats in response to the “silly, yet predictable Republican speaker fight.”…. “If national Republicans continue to show they won’t govern, why would Virginia Republicans be any different?” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Communications Director Abhi Rahman said in a statement announcing the investment in local races….Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has called for a bipartisan end to the impasse, in which Democrats would supply votes in exchange for concessions on rules and House procedures to better foster bipartisan governing….By and large, Republicans have rejected calls for a bipartisan solution, though Kuster said as recently as Monday that some Republicans were still interested in working across the aisle, though they’d need to first hit “rock bottom” first before turning to their Democratic colleagues.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Yes, you can have nuanced views and nuanced responses when it comes to geopolitics.

    But ultimately these must be grounded on unambiguous morality if you want sustained public support.

    The isolationist right wing and the appeaser/pacifist left wing must be confronted head on.

    On the right pro-Russian views have been allowed to fester. The same will happen on the left regarding Israel if the US doesn’t express its values very clearly.

    I’m glad President Biden is doing the right thing. But the response from many congressional Democrats who are either uncritically pro-Israel or ambivalent about terrorism has been disappointing.

    The center needs to step up in both parties. The divisions inside the Democratic coalition have been a problem in domestic politics for a long time, they should not be allowed to fester via geopolitics too.


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