washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Among the many charms of the new Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson, is his eagerness, make that determination, to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for millions of Americans. As Michael Hiltzik explains in his column, “America’s retirement system is mediocre. The new House speaker wants to make it downright awful” at The Los Angeles Times, “Johnson is a long-term advocate of cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits through changes such as raising the retirement and eligibility ages for the programs….He also has advocated scrutinizing the cost of those programs through a “bipartisan debt commission” that inevitably would place them in the deficit-reduction cauldron along with other spending. After his rise to the speaker’s chair Wednesday, Johnson immediately promised to create this panel….“When Social Security was created in the ‘60s, the average life span was somewhere in the mid-70s,” he said. “Now people live to be 100 routinely. So people are on the program for decades, when it was never structured to be able to do that.”….A few things about this. First and foremost, Social Security was created in 1935, not the ‘60s. Even then, the average American life expectancy for anyone reaching the age of 45 or older was more than 70. For 65-year-olds — that is, those who were eligible to begin collecting benefits — the average life expectancy was nearly 78….Today, the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old is about 85….As for Americans living “routinely” to age 100, one wonders from where Johnson could have excavated that fantastical assertion. In 2021, there were 89,739 centenarians in the U.S., out of a total population of 336 million. That works out to about 2.5 hundredths of a percent of the population. You may debate whether that’s a lot or a little, but by any standard, “routine” it ain’t….In measuring Johnson’s record on 10 legislative measures important to retirees, the Alliance for Retired Americans gave him a 0% score for 2022, and 5% for his entire career. He was the lowest-scoring senator or representative from his state.”

John Ward interviews Ruy Teixeira one week out from the release of his and John Judis’s new book, “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?: The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes., and asks Teixeira three good questions. Here’s an excerpt with one of Ward’s questions and Teixeira’s answer: “You say that the radical side of the GOP has propensities for violence and contempt for democracy that far outweigh the foibles of the Democrats’ cultural radicals. Basically, you’re saying that your hopes for democracy and American prosperity and vibrancy rests with the Democrats and with the working class?  [Teixeira responds] Yes, absolutely. That’s the correct way of understanding it. We don’t rule out that the Republicans could right the ship, and there are very interesting intellectual currents in and around the Republican Party. That could bear fruit over the medium to long term. But right now, realistically, looking at our political landscape, we still see the Democrats as being the best bet — if they sort of return to the roots as a party of the people — as a party of the common man and woman, if they shuck off some of this cultural radicalism for more of a centrist approach….At the tail end of another question, Teixeira adds, “We’re trying to make people understand how even though the Democrats are plausibly the best alternative at this point — the sort of the Trumpist Republicans are not a great look — here’s why they can’t seem to beat the other side more decisively. And here’s what they might need to be, to be the party we need to have in America.”

Credit Democrat Brandon Presley for making a gutsy run for the governorship of Mississippi, even though many political observers pronounced the state Democratic Party a near-hopeless cause. As AP’s Emily Wagster Pettus elaborates at The Mississippi Link: “They’re sitting up in that governor’s mansion tonight, I bet you money, tinkling their little glasses, smoking their cigars,” Presley said, imitating someone holding a tumbler of whiskey. “And they’re talking about how, ‘Well, nobody’s going to come vote.’ And particularly black Mississippians. They don’t think you’re going to commit.”….Presley, the 46-year-old second cousin of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley, will need a bipartisan, multiracial coalition to vote in unprecedented numbers to accomplish his goal of unseating Reeves….Presley is endorsed by the state’s most powerful black politician, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson. One of the most famous black Mississippi residents, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, recently joined him at a campaign event….Presley has raised more campaign cash than Reeves this year, and he’s attracting larger and more diverse crowds than any Democrat running for Mississippi governor in a generation….Presley is pushing for robust turnout among black voters, who comprise nearly 40% of the state’s population and are the base of the state Democratic Party. He also needs crossover votes from people who usually support Republicans but are disenchanted with conditions in one of the poorest states in the U.S….Others are making independent efforts to increase turnout….In speeches and TV ads, Presley talks about being in third grade when his father was murdered and then being raised by a single mom who worked in a garment factory and struggled to pay bills….Presley says rural hospitals are hurting because of Reeves’ refusal to expand Medicaid to people working jobs with no health insurance – roofing houses or waiting tables at the Waffle House. Reeves calls Medicaid “welfare” and says he does not want more people on government-funded health insurance….There’s evidence Presley is connecting with white working-class voters.”

If Presley can pull off an upset, future statewide victories for Democrats will become more of a possibility and perhaps lure needed funding and activism for the party’s candidates. Pettus notes one major change in election law which could help Presley: “One source of optimism in the Presley camp is a change in how Mississippi elects its governor. Until this year, winning a governor’s race required overcoming a unique legal challenge that was written into the state constitution during the Jim Crow era and repealed by Mississippi voters in 2020….Under the old method, a gubernatorial candidate had to win a majority of the statewide popular vote and and prevail in a majority of the 122 state House districts. Without both, the race would be decided by the Mississippi House….That process was written in 1890….The separate House vote allowed the white ruling class to have the final say in who holds office, and it fueled lingering cynicism among black Mississippians about whether their votes would ever matter….Mississippi was the only state in the U.S. with this process for electing statewide officials, and the vote to repeal the provision came only after former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued the state on behalf of some Black residents….Winning a governor’s race now requires a majority of the popular vote. If nobody receives that Nov. 7, the race goes to a Nov. 28 runoff. Although an independent candidate, Gwendolyn Gray, recently announced she is dropping out and endorsing Presley, she did so after the ballot had been set….Presley says the new method of electing a governor gives him a better chance than the old one. He doesn’t have to strategize to win a majority of House districts mostly drawn to favor Republicans….“For the first time, candidates of all political parties can truthfully emphasize voter turnout, where before it had to be such a scattered approach,” Presley said last week at Tougaloo College, an historically black school in Jackson. “This will be the first time particularly that black voters’ votes will count to an extent of 100%, where before, an argument could be made that they were very much diluted.” Here’s a fridge magnet Gandhi quote for Presley and other Democratic underdog candidates: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

5 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    If the Democrats’ college-degreed base of voters cannot see the need to appeal to working class voters, or see the need but cannot think of a way to do it, that ought to tell you something about the quality of American higher education.

    • Annoyed Center Left Lib on

      Well that’s because they listen to people that pretend to be working class.

      If you have a degree from a Top 20 institution and live in a safe blue enclave, you are not working class, regardless of how much you make. You can be poor and not working class.

      But because these are the only people with adjacency to the also college educated staffers and consultants crafting Dem policy, Dems think these are the people they need to follow when they don’t.

      It becomes even worse once you realize that these are the types of people to lead inefficient advocacy groups that are supposed to help out working class people but often don’t.

      Dems need to stop listening to the champagne podcast communist class if they want to actually reach working class voters.

      • Tom chumley on

        Please give us examples of what you are claiming. Every single piece of legislation passed by Democrats since 2021 has HELPED all working class people. No Democratic campaigners are saying what you claim about working class voters. We want all of their votes and have done a great job since 2022 of getting them.
        Is your idea of republicans helping the middle class the Trump tax cuts??
        People attacking other Democrats are doing little but helping the other side.

        • Victor on

          Clearly the reference is to advocacy groups. And there are certainly democratic politicians who are problematic.

          The Squad are problematic on many fronts. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is problematic when it comes to immigration.

          There are advocacy groups pushing nonsense like defund the police, abolish ICE and absolutist ideas around renewables like closing nuclear power plants immediately. We have members of Congress elected via Democratic Socialists of America.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.