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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some excerpts from “Showing Contempt for Young Voters Is a Great Way for Democrats to Lose in November” by Jeet Heer at The Nation: “Contempt for the Democratic Party’s progressive base is a sure path to Donald Trump’s return. A specter haunts the Democratic Party: the ghost of Clintonism, an ideology that’s been discredited at the ballot box yet still retains a mysteriously powerful hold on party elders. Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, when she lost a winnable election to a political novice who scored the highest disapproval polling numbers in modern American history, should have sounded the death knell for her brand of politics….This disdain, both for working-class whites whose lives had become precarious as a result of the neoliberalism championed by her husband and for young progressives who sought to break the neoliberal consensus, was matched by an eager courting of suburban Republicans. Corporate Democrats thought this overwhelmingly white constituency could be won over by a mixture of performative revulsion at Trump’s personal vulgarity and nationalist celebrations of foreign-policy hawkishness….Trump’s victory had many causes, but the Clintons’ hostility toward large parts of the Democratic coalition stands out as an unforced error, especially egregious because it was a choice….Joe Biden’s success in 2020 was due in no small part to his deliberate rejection of Clinton’s failed strategy. “Scranton Joe” courted both Sanders voters and blue-collar whites. He promised expanded infrastructure spending and tougher trade deals. Progressive young people might not have given Biden their votes in the primaries, but he campaigned as a candidate who saw them as part of his coalition and duly won their votes on Election Day….Until early May, Biden gave Israel a virtual blank check to fight a ferocious war with massive civilian casualties. This has been enormously unpopular with young people and nonwhite voters, splintering the Democratic coalition anew.” Heer’s article is very hard on Clinton, who I believe probably would have made a good president. But her blind spots, as Heer argues so effectively, made her a lousy candidate in too many working-class precincts. But let’s not lose track of Heer’s larger point – Democrats should reject bashing young voters and other lefty groups, who could help in a close election. That’s an unforced error worth avoiding.

Not to dwell excessively on elections past, but Tom McGrath has a provocatively-titled article, “How 1980s Yuppies Gave Us Donald Trump. If it weren’t for the young urban professionals of the 1980s, we’d never have MAGA,” at Politico, in which he argues: “If you really want to understand Trump’s appeal, you need to go back a few decades to examine the social forces that shaped his rise as a real estate developer and remade American politics in the 1980s. Specifically, you need to wind back the tape to the 1984 Democratic primary, the almost-pulled-it-off candidacy of Colorado Senator Gary Hart and the emerging yuppie demographic that made up his base. They don’t remotely resemble the working-class base we associate with Trump today. But together, they helped shift the Democratic Party’s focus away from its labor coalition and toward the hyper-educated liberal voters it largely represents today, eventually creating an opening for Trump to cast Democrats as out-of-touch elites and draw the white working class away from them. In fact, if it weren’t for 1980s yuppies and the way they shifted America’s political parties, the modern MAGA GOP might never have arisen in the first place….Ironically, it was Donald Trump — if not a yuppie himself, then at least a walking symbol of 1980s glitz and excess — who spotted the political opportunity, persuading many working‐class Americans that he was on their side. In office, Trump’s only significant legislative accomplishment was a massive tax cut for wealthy Americans, though he also imposed significant trade tariffs on China….Democrats have tried to win back the working class in recent years — this past September, President Joe Biden made history as the first sitting commander in chief to join a picket line when he expressed solidarity with United Auto Workers on strike in Detroit — but they continue to struggle with college-educated liberals’ takeover of the party. It’s a hard road after so many years of neglect.” While Trump was emblematic of the more narcissistic yuppies of the 1980s, that doesn’t tell you how he mobilized contempt for liberals from 2016 to today and won over so many white working-class voters. That’s a different – and more relevant – story.

Florida Daily reports “Currently, the abortion and the marijuana amendment on this year’s Florida ballot aren’t a top concern for Florida voters. Instead, it’s insurance and inflation according to a new survey by the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Center for Political Strategy….Results revealed that 26% of Florida voters rank property insurance costs as their top issue, followed by inflation at 21%. Illegal immigration (13%) and housing costs (10%). “Its economic kitchen table issues,” said AIF….When it came to political candidates, AIF found that voters chose a generic Republican candidate over a generic Democratic candidate by a 47%-43% margin, 10% of voters said they were undecided. But registered Independents said they preferred a generic Democrat over a generic Republican by a 43%-36% margin….On issues facing the state, the GOP outperformed Democrats on most issues….The economy, (44%-23%), reducing inflation/everyday costs (35%-25%), crime (46%-16%), education (38%-31%), and protecting personal freedoms (45%-37%)…. But on the state’s top issue, the plurality of voters (44%) believes both parties aren’t doing a productive job lowering property insurance costs….“The average Floridian is really feeling the effects of the insurance crisis and higher prices,” said AIF Vice President of Political Operations Jeremy Sheftel. “With hurricane season officially underway, it will be worth monitoring to see how voters will respond as the season progresses.” AIF notes that as of April of this year, there are 13,477,715 total registered voters in Florida. Republicans lead with 5,248,509 (39%) followed by Democrats with 4,344,377 (32%) and Independents with 3,884,829 (29%). Since the 2020 voter registration book closing, Republicans have seen a net gain of +50,083 voters while Democrats and Independents have seen net losses of -978,896 and -111,793, respectively.”

In “President vs. Senate: What to Watch in the Polls, and What History Suggests,” Kyle Kondik observes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In both the 2016 and 2020 elections, the party that won each Senate race was the same as the party that won that state for president, with just one exception: In 2020, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) won reelection despite President Biden winning her state for president. Our J. Miles Coleman tracked the history of split Senate/presidential results in the post-World War II era; such split results used to be common but have been rare in the past two presidential election cycles. In another Crystal Ball article, Miles documented the decline of Senate/presidential ticket-splitting over the last six presidential cycles….The presidency will likely be decided by how many of the following six states Biden can hang onto, all of which he carried in 2020 but by less than his 4.5-point edge in the national popular vote: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Of these states, 5 of the 6 have Senate races (all but Georgia). Democratic Senate candidates generally lead in those states while Joe Biden does not (more on the specifics below in Table 3)….Just to reiterate the basic math, Democrats have a 51-49 Senate majority now (that includes the independents who caucus with them). West Virginia is effectively already lost for Democrats with Manchin’s retirement, unless he uses his new independent status to run for reelection (but that seems like more of a consideration for a late run for governor based on recent reporting, and Manchin would be an underdog in the context of any 2024 statewide bid in West Virginia). So that reduces the Democratic margin to 50-50, and they don’t have any clear offensive targets. In addition to holding all of the swing state seats, Democrats also need to defend Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jon Tester (D-MT) in states that are going to vote for Trump by, respectively, 5-10 (or more) and 15-20 (or more) points. We didn’t include these races in Table 3 because there’s little recent nonpartisan polling in either race. Brown and Tester have both waded carefully in the aftermath of Trump’s conviction in a New York trial last week, which makes sense given the potential for the conviction to further nationalize the electorate at a time when Brown and Tester both need a lot of crossover support to win….Overall, it will be important to continue to monitor the differences between the presidential and the Senate polling. We suspect that actual margins in the key states will be closer than polls currently show, but it’s not unimaginable that we’ll get some split presidential-Senate results this year. And Democrats will almost certainly need to produce at least two such results—in Montana and Ohio—to salvage even a 50-50 split in the Senate.”

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