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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “The Supreme Court’s Republican bias hangs over the Trump immunity case: The conservative justices must navigate a crisis moment of their own making,” and writes that “As members of its 6-3 conservative majority ponder how and when they will rule on Donald Trump’s absolute immunity claim, they should understand how much they have already done to paint themselves as instruments of the Republican Party and the political right. They have created a crisis moment….the conservative justices seem hellbent on taking a side in the searing partisan battle that is dividing the country into closely matched halves, at a cost to its own legitimacy and the nation’s confidence in the rule of law….Add to this the invention of the “major questions doctrine,” through which the court has seized the power to strike down executive agency actions of “vast economic and political significance” unless Congress clearly authorized them. It’s a move that allows the court’s conservatives to throw out any regulations and executive actions by Democratic administrations that they don’t like….Trump’s contention is both absurd and dangerous to a free republic. Yet in last week’s oral arguments, most of the conservative justices were more eager to worry about entirely hypothetical problems future presidents might confront than to deal with the facts before them involving a president who plainly tried to overturn a legitimate election….If the court delays its ruling until late June or forces the trial court to litigate new issues it might raise, it knows it will be delaying Trump’s most important trial until after this year’s election. The court already fed skepticism about its motives in December when it denied special counsel Jack Smith’s request for the court to bypass the appeals process and fast-track a hearing on matters Smith knew the justices would want to address….There is a way for the court to prove its willingness to suspend partisanship at least some of the time. Instead of wasting precious time to rule on issues not directly raised by this case, it could take up Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s suggestion that it confine itself to answering the question Trump raised: “whether all official acts [by a president] get immunity.” She proposed that it wait for a case that “actually presents” the issues that preoccupy the conservatives….One of her fellow justices has made an excellent argument for this approach. “If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more,” Roberts wrote in a 2022 opinion. In the Trump case, he would do a lot for the court’s reputation by following his own advice and bringing another conservative with him.”

Gary Langer reports on a new a new ABC News/Ipsos poll at abcnews.com: “Locked in a tight race for the presidency, Donald Trump prevails in trust to handle most issues in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, yet President Joe Biden scores competitively on key personal attributes — leaving wide open the question of who’ll prevail come Election Day, now six months away….Excluding people who say they wouldn’t vote, Trump has 46% support, Biden 44%, in this national survey of more than 2,200 adults. (Nearly all the rest say they’d pick someone else.) Among registered voters, it’s Biden 46%, Trump 45%. Among likely voters, it’s Biden 49%, Trump 45%, again not a significant difference….A five-way contest doesn’t change the picture in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates with fieldwork by Ipsos. This finds the race at 42% for Trump and 40% for Biden, with 12% for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 2% for Cornel West and 1% for Jill Stein. (That, of course, assumes Kennedy, West and Stein are on the ballot in all states, an open question.) Among registered voters in the five-way race, it’s 42-42%, Biden-Trump, and Biden is a non-significant +3 or +4 points in likely voter models….Kennedy gets 12% even though 77% of his supporters say they know “just some” or “hardly anything” about his positions on the issues. Notably, his supporters are more apt to be Republicans or GOP-leaning independents (54%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (42%, a slight difference given sample sizes), and in a two-way race, they favor Trump over Biden by 13 points. That may explain why Trump attacked Kennedy as a stalking horse in social media posts last week….Another result finds a potential risk for Trump in his current trial in New Yorkon charges of falsifying business records to hide a payoff to a pornographic actress who says they had sex, which he denies. Eighty percent of Trump’s supporters say they’d stick with him even if he’s convicted of a felony in this case. But that leaves 20% who say they’d either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%) — easily enough to matter in a close race.” Among the usual caveats, it is a national poll, not a swing state poll with a fairly small sample (2260). Langer presents more polling data readers can access by clicking on this link.

In “Democrats launch early efforts to persuade undecided voters” at The Hill,  Amie Parnes observes “In an election where enthusiasm is low and voters are lukewarm on support for both parties’ candidates, Democrats are focusing on early persuasion in battleground states to help sway so-called surge voters — the part of the electorate who sat out during the 2016 presidential race but backed Biden during the 2020 cycle.,,,The Democrats say they’re seeing a need to launch these efforts earlier than usual because of the unprecedented race between Biden and former President Trump and threats from third-party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr…. This week, for example, the progressive activist group MoveOn is intensifying the persuasion phase of a $32 million election program, which will engage those much-desired voters, sources tell The Hill….Biden lags Trump across several polls, which have strategists saying the early contact is essential….Organizers at MoveOn say issues like abortion and the fight for democracy have shown to be motivating for Democratic-leaning voters….MoveOn’s persuasion efforts will be handled by three “personalized contacts,” the sources say, which include phone, postcards and through in-person door-knocking, the sources say….In 2020, the group took part in get-out-the-vote efforts much later in the cycle, in August. But it didn’t focus as much on persuasion, something they say is needed during this election….“We believe that this strategy is key to doing the important work to successfully persuade voters and supply them with the information they need to protect their progress and their freedoms from Donald Trump and MAGA,” said Britt Jacovich, a press secretary for MoveOn….One source familiar with the AFL-CIO’s efforts says there is a specific focus on the Rust Belt states and having discussions on health care, wages and other issues….“There’s so much noise and the only way to cut through that noise is conversation,” the union source said. “People don’t want the political speak.”….in key battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — the former president has a slim advantage over Biden, according to surveys published Tuesday from Emerson College Polling/The Hill, but the difference is within the survey’s margin of error….“When you’re in power and your side controls the White House, there is a tendency for your side to become complacent, and that’s where the turnout message becomes important,” said Rachel Bitecofer, a political strategist and author of the new book, “Hit ‘Em Where it Hurts: How To Save Democracy By Beating Republicans At Their Own Game.”….A lot of these surge voters are not paying attention to the daily news … The more contacts those people have to vote and vote Democrat, the better.”

Some thoughts from Politico’s “Don’t Forget the Backlash to the ’60s” by Jeff Greenfield, five-time Emmy Award-winning political analyst: “Most media retrospectives of the 1960s celebrate the marchers, the protests, the peace signs along with the compulsory Buffalo Springfield lyrics (“There’s something happening here/ But what it is ain’t exactly clear”). The reality is those upheavals were an enormous in-kind contribution to the political fortunes of the right. And if history comes even close to repeating itself, then the latest episode will redound to Donald Trump’s benefit….Ronald Reagan centered much of his 1966 campaign for governor of California on attacking the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. He pledged to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” and denounced the “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates” who fueled “anarchy and rioting.”….He proposed that a code of conduct be imposed on faculty to “force them to serve as examples of good behavior and decency.” He won election by a million votes.” And that was in liberal California. Greenfield continues, “The backlash against the left was a key part of the 1968 presidential race. Richard Nixon famously ran a campaign on “law and order” — highlighting both urban and campus unrest. One commercial featured scenes of protest, as Nixon argued that “in a system of government that provides for peaceful change, there is no cause that justifies a resort to violence.”….The scenes of violence in Chicago outside the Democrats’ 1968 presidential convention, meanwhile, further contributed to the notion that left-wing lawlessness had gotten out of control. It was a nightmare event for Hubert Humphrey’s beleaguered presidential campaign, one where the public overwhelmingly sided with the Chicago police, not the demonstrators. (And, of course, guess where Democrats are holding their 2024 convention: Chicago.)….The political consequences of the upheaval became clear. While the doomed liberal campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy draw most of the focus in retrospectives of the era, the fact is that in November of 1968, Nixon and Wallace combined for 57 percent of the vote, close to the levels of historic landslide wins of LBJ in 1964 and Reagan in 1984….It may be that the months of summer, or a meaningful cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, will dampen the heat on American college campuses. But if the turmoil continues, history suggests that it will be another significant burden on Biden’s fight for a second term.”

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