washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “The Democrats’ Age Divide Is Defining the 2020 Primary: Joe Biden’s edge with older voters is his greatest asset so far in the race” in The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein shares some revealing stats: “His greatest strength is his appeal to older Democratic voters, both white and African American, who are typically more ideologically moderate and more politically pragmatic. For the 76-year-old Biden, that’s an acceptable trade-off because voters older than 45 cast fully 60 percent of all votes in the 2016 Democratic primary, according to a cumulative CNN analysis of all the exit polls conducted that year…Only a little more than one-fifth of Democratic voters ages 45 and older described themselves as very liberal in 2016; about twice as many described themselves as moderate or conservative…In CNN’s first national poll after Biden entered, the former vice president drew 45 percent of likely Democratic primary voters older than 45, four times as much as Sanders, his nearest rival. Among voters younger than 45, Biden also led, but only by 31 percent to 19 percent…In Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac University pollreleased Wednesday showed Biden and Sanders running about even among voters younger than 50, but Biden leading him by almost 12 to one among those who are older.”

Perry Bacon, Jr., however, takes a different slant the age issue in “A Lot Of Americans Say They Don’t Want A President Who Is Over 70. Really?” and observes at FiveThirtyEight that, “Gallup recently released new data on Americans’ willingness to vote for presidential candidates with certain traits. About 1,000 adults were asked1whether they’d vote for a well-qualified candidate who was nominated by their party and was black, gay or had one of 10 other characteristics that are rarely or never seen in presidential nominees…Almost all Americans said they’d be comfortable voting for a woman (94 percent), or a Catholic (95 percent), Hispanic (95 percent) or black (96 percent) candidate. But there are characteristics that big swaths of Americans said would be disqualifying — in particular being older than 70, being an atheist and being a socialist.” However, notes bacon, “Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said they would not back a GOP presidential candidate over the age of 70. Well … yep, President Trump was 70 on Election Day in 2016, and he’ll be 74 in 2020.”

A Gallup Poll chart from Bacon’s article:

What types of candidates would Americans NOT vote for?

Share of respondents to an April survey who said they would not vote for a “generally well-qualified” presidential candidate from their own party if the candidate had each of the following characteristics

DEMOCRATS INDEPENDENTS REPUBLICANS OVERALL
Socialist 24% 48% 80% 51%
Atheist 28 33 56 39
Older than 70 35 37 37 37
Muslim 14 26 62 33
Younger than 40 21 28 34 28
Gay or lesbian 17 18 39 24
Evangelical Christian 27 20 6 18
Jewish 5 9 5 7
Woman 3 6 9 6
Catholic 4 6 3 5
Hispanic 3 3 8 5
Black 1 4 5 3

SOURCE: GALLUP

For an update on the presidential candidates in relation to labor unions, read Tara Golshan’s “2020 Democrats’ battle for union support, explained” at vox.com. Some of Golshan’s insights: “Union members “vote at higher rates than most Americans, they are mobilized, they are in important states,” Paul Frymer, a political scientist with Princeton University who has written on the labor movement, said. “The union movement is a big part of the Democratic Party — there isn’t another mobilized coalition like it. They are the biggest civil rights movement in the country.”… Golshan notes that front-runners Biden and Sanders are at odds on some trade issues, with Sanders taking a more protectionist stance. “In an AFL-CIO poll of its members,” Golshan writes, “65 percent said they opposed NAFTA, and 72 percent said the TPP would have been bad for American workers, leading to outsourced jobs and lower wages…”

Golshan adds, “Exit polling from the 2016 presidential election showed Trump trailing Clinton by only 8 points among union households — a significant improvement from Mitt Romney, who trailed Barack Obama by 18 points with those same voters. Those numbers, in part, reflect a shift among white men, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.”..FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver put it in terms of the 2016 election results in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, which Trump won by razor-thin margins to claim the presidency. In 2016, Clinton underperformed Obama among union members by 18 points. “That roughly 18-point swing was worth a net of 1.2 percentage points for Trump in Pennsylvania, 1.1 points in Wisconsin and 1.7 points in Michigan based on their rates of union membership — and those totals were larger than his margins of victory in those states…”

A DLCC e-blast notes that “Pennsylvania, more than almost any other state, helped put Donald Trump in the White House and Trump’s allies in charge of the Senate. This Tuesday, we have a chance to turn the tide and start pushing this key swing state back into the Democratic column…In just a few days, Pennsylvania will hold three special elections for their legislature, and these races are going to be tough…They’re happening in some of the reddest seats in the state, and they’re easily our most daunting challenge yet in the Trump era…Just last month, Democrat Pam Iovino — an exemplary public servant facing daunting odds — flipped a seat that backed Trump by nearly 6 points.
A blue Pennsylvania is within our grasp…” And yes, you can help by clicking here, and doing your part.

At The Daily Beast, Allison Quinn argues that “GOP Congressman Justin Amash’s Impeachment Call Boosts Pressure on Pelosi.” As Quinn explains, “Many were quick to wonder aloud why it was a Republican lawmaker making the case for impeachment rather than top Democrat Pelosi, who has called Trump “unfit” for the presidency but come out against impeachment, saying it’d be too “divisive” for the country…Earlier this week at an event hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center, she said she doesn’t “want to impeach” even though in her opinion, Trump is giving more “grounds for impeachment” with every passing day by ignoring subpoenas issued by House Democrats.

If Trump is pondering some sort of power-grab after losing the 2020 election, he won’t find much support from voters, according to a new poll conducted by IPSOS and the University of Virginia Center for American Politics, as reported at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “By a 77%-16% margin, respondents did not think that the 2020 election should be delayed and President Donald Trump given an extra two years in office. This question was based on a recent tweet by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell suggesting that because of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the president’s term should be extended two years (Trump retweeted Falwell). There were partisan differences on this question: Democrats said no overwhelmingly, 89%-9%, while Republicans said no by a smaller 62%-31% margin…Just 7% of respondents said that if Trump loses the 2020 election, he should ignore the results and stay in office.”

Democrats beware: Trump could ride tariffs to a presidential win,” warns Egberto Willies at Daily Kos: “Trump’s Chinese tariffs create points of discussions on the deficit, taxes, lying to his base, the economic pain of the masses, and much more. But Democrats are just leaving it up to pundits, journalists, and others to craft a less-than-perfect narrative…The thing is, except for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the Democrats have not given voters a transformational vision of our economy that will help all those who are hurting financially. Trump is building such a vision, even if it’s just a facade. And whether he gets the beneficial terms from China or not, the truth is that because Democrats haven’t provided a compelling counter-narrative, Trump may win over enough voters to cruise to re-election in 2020.”


Political Strategy Notes

Some wise words from Amelia Thomson-Deveaux’s post, “Democrats Have No Safe Options On Health Care” at FiveThirtyEight: “It was a top issue among Democratic voters in the 2018 midterms, and the Trump administration recently renewed its efforts to strike down the Affordable Care Act in the courts, which means the law could be hanging in the balance throughout the primaries and into the general election. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll also found that Americans, by a 17-point margin, say that President Trump’s handling of health care makes them more likely to oppose him than to support him in 2020. By a similar margin, an Associated Press/NORC poll found that Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans on health care…All of this means that Democrats are heading into the 2020 election cycle with a serious edge on an issue that has the potential to mobilize their base. But if the candidates pitch big, sweeping changes to the health care system without addressing voters’ concerns about cost and access, that advantage won’t necessarily hold up. And trying to sell Americans on a completely new system carries risks, even in the primaries.”

Thomson-Deveaux adds, “And when asked what health care policies they want Congress to prioritize, Americans don’t list Medicare for All first. Instead, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, they want Congress to pass targeted measures that would lower prescription drug costs, continue the ACA’s protections for preexisting conditions and protect people from surprise medical bills. Only 31 percent of Americans say that implementing Medicare for All should be a top priority for Congress, compared to 68 percent who want lowering drug prices to be a top priority. Moreover, prioritizing Medicare for All is politically polarizing: Only 14 percent of Republicans support putting that kind of plan at the top of the to-do list, compared to 47 percent of Democrats.”

“You also have to tell voters, very specifically, what you are going to do to lower their costs and improve their coverage next year — not in 10 years,” Thomson-Deveaux concludes. “Even though Americans mostly prefer Democrats’ health care positions to the GOP’s, Democrats still risk alienating voters if they emphasize bumper-sticker slogans over concrete strategies for reducing the financial burden of health care. This is particularly important because their base of support for a single-payer system may be shallower than it appears, even within the party — especially when it comes to getting rid of private insurance. Big changes to the status quo are always politically challenging, but they may be especially risky when many Americans are concerned about losing the protections they already have.”

In his “Notes on the State of the House: The Democrats’ generic ballot edge endures, at least for now, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up on redistricting,” Kyle Kondik observes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “Despite the 2018 House blue wave that flipped the lower chamber, Democrats came up empty in two big states: Ohio and North Carolina. Republicans maintained a 12-4 edge in the Buckeye State’s House delegation, and in the Tar Heel State, Republicans seemed to hold their 10-3 advantage until credible accusations of fraud prompted a do-over election in NC-9. The GOP primary for that race is next week (veteran Dan McCready, the 2018 nominee, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination)…A big part of the reason why Democrats failed to win any new seats in Ohio, and may not in North Carolina, is because both states have House maps gerrymandered by Republicans. The GOP actually gerrymandered North Carolina twice in the 2010s, both in an initial map for the 2012 election and then a re-do in response to a court order in advance of 2016. Still, the North Carolina maps have held for the Republicans throughout the decade, with the possible exception of the unusual NC-9 situation.”

However, Kondik continues, “it’s possible that all four of these states will have new House maps in 2020. That combination of outcomes would almost certainly benefit Democrats on balance. While Republicans would almost assuredly pick up a seat in Maryland — MD-6, held by Rep. David Trone (D), would become significantly more Republican in a fair remap — Democrats likely would pick up multiple seats from North Carolina and Ohio. Michigan is harder to figure because the delegation is currently 7-7 and a remap would not necessarily be guaranteed to help Democrats…But it’s also possible, perhaps even likely, that none of the maps in these states actually will change at all this cycle. Republicans in Michigan and Ohio are hoping that the Supreme Court decides not to intervene in the Maryland and North Carolina cases, which might effectively overrule the lower courts’ decisions in Michigan and Ohio, too…the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to intervene in partisan redistricting cases, and the current John Roberts court is very much unlike the Warren Court in terms of ideology. The Supreme Court punted on a gerrymandering decision last year; since then, Brett Kavanaugh has replaced Anthony Kennedy on the court, arguably positioning the court further to the right…In other words, and without knowing what the Supreme Court ultimately will say, we’d be surprised if this ends up being the court that intervenes against partisan redistricting.”

In his article, “Democrats Need an Anti-Austerity Message” at The New Republic, Alex Shephard writes, “It’s a simple truth: Republicans explode the deficit when they’re in power. But, as soon as they’re out of power, they demand austerity—while painting Democrats as wasteful socialists who trade handouts for votes…That’s been pretty much a given for a generation now, but have Democrats come up with an answer?…Today, despite the fact that President Trump’s legislative legacy consists of one deficit-compounding tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans are planning a 2020 campaign aimed at convincing voters that their opponents are socialists who can’t be trusted to hold the keys to the economy—a smear they will no doubt continue if a Democrat prevails…It’s a bait-and-switch they’ve been pulling since the Reagan years. The “party of fiscal responsibility” has reliably driven up the deficit whenever they’ve held power over the past four decades.” Shephard continues, “The political strategy to fight back against the austerity narrative could involve attacking Republican deficit hypocrisy, but that risks further legitimizing the idea that all deficit spending is bad. At a time when Democrats should be proposing large-scale social programs, they could instead go on the offensive, lambasting Republican spending priorities, which, in the case of the ridiculously named Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, consists of giving free cash to rich people…Going on the offensive about what austerity means for people would not only make for smart economics, it makes for smart politics.”

Billy Corriher’s “Southern legislatures take aim at direct democracy” at Facing South shares details about Republican measures to weaken initiative, referenda and recall laws in southern states. Corriher  notes, “Florida is not the only state where elected politicians are targeting direct democracy. This year alone, state lawmakers nationwide have introduced more than 200 bills changing the rules for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments or other ballot referendums, according to Ballotpedia. Legislators in Florida and several other states are also dragging their feet on implementing constitutional changes already approved by the voters.”

“It seems a crazy idea that any president would actually want to be impeached,” Stephen Collinson writes at CNN Politics. “But Donald Trump has so subverted Washington logic with his wild, norm-crushing presidency that there is now a serious conversation — at least among Democrats — about whether he views the ultimate constitutional crisis as a weapon in his re-election campaign…The possibility is shaping the strategies of Democratic leaders as they weigh the political risks of impeachment and their duty to defend principles of American governance…Many Democrats fear that Trump may be laying an impeachment trap that could consume the House majority, distract them from key issues like health care and alienate persuadable voters.”

Do read Ella Nilsen’s “How DNC Chair Tom Perez plans to avoid the chaos of the GOP’s 2016 debates” at Vox. As Nilsen writes, “Thinking back to the chaos of the Republican debates in 2016, Perez already has a few ground rules: there will be no varsity and junior varsity stages — candidates will be chosen at random. If there are 20 qualifiers, 10 will go on one night, and another 10 the next…We wanted to make sure that we returned power to the grassroots. When we undertook reform of our rules last year, we limited the role of superdelegates on the first ballot. And that superdelegate reform was designed to return power to the grassroots. We engaged in other reforms of our primary and caucus processes, so now there are going to be six states that had a caucus before that will have a primary this time. Why is that desirable? Because more people participate.”

How Risky is Not Impeaching Trump?

We have given a fair amount of space to various arguments against impeaching Trump. But even the most ardent Democratic opponents of impeachment acknowledge that there may come a time when Democrats will look bad by not doing so.

For Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro that time has arrived. As Castro said,

“I called several weeks ago now for impeachment proceedings to begin because it’s clear that this president obstructed justice,” he emphasized. “Congress needs to act. They should act…“The fact that you’d have almost 400 former federal prosecutors say that anybody else would have been charged with several felony counts for obstruction of justice, that says something…the question is – is this president above the law? I believe the answer to that is no, and that’s why impeachment is warranted.”

Warren said it this way:

“I have tried to let the House make its own determination and I’ve made clear how I see this…Every single person in the House and the Senate should take a vote on whether what Donald Trump did to obstruct justice was an impeachable offense. And then they ought to have to live with that vote for the rest of their lives.”..Mueller served up the evidence on a silver platter to Congress. Congress is now the only body that can act to prevent a president from obstructing justice and walking away with no penalty imposed.

There will be more. For most of the Democratic candidates, it’s more likely a matter of “when” than “if.” But at slate.com, Jim Newell says that that Speaker Pelosi’s strategy is pinned on “her own worst fears: that impeachment would backfire on Democrats, that it would distract them from their legislative agenda, and that there’s no chance Trump would get convicted in the Republican-controlled Senate.” Newell argues further,

The muddled message from Pelosi—Trump is obstructing justice every day, but we’ll show him by not impeaching—is a byproduct of the corner she’s occupying: Impeach the president and risk a catastrophic backfire that secures him another term, or don’t impeach him, and allow Donald Trump to operate in a space where the credible threat of impeachment is off the table. Beneath all of the mixed signaling, though, is a coherent decision that she has made: to delay the decision on impeachment indefinitely, by continually requesting more, seeing where facts land at the end of a time-consuming process of fact-landing, and, by then, arriving at Election Day.

Newell quotes WaPo’s Greg Sargent, who commented on impeachment as a way to make Trump’s tax returns public:

Democrats must now choose between continuing to pursue the returns through conventional channels, which carries some risk of failure, and getting serious about impeachment hearings, which would likely minimize that risk to the greatest extent possible,” Sargent writes. “If Democrats go with the first, it raises at least the possibility that they could squander months in court, only to fail to secure Trump’s returns at the end—at which point they’d decide it’s too late to pursue impeachment, because 2020 would be looming.

As Newell concludes, ” Investigations will serve as a tool to expose the president’s wrongdoing for voters to draw their own conclusions, not as the build-up to Congress reaching a conclusion of its own. In a way, it’s the highest-risk gamble of all: Betting everything on an election which, if Trump wins, would leave him with four more years, and Congress with a broken ability to oversee him.”

So it’s a risk for Democrats either way. Once impeachment begins, it will become the dominant media narrative. Coverage of Democratic policies addressing health care, trade, fair taxes, education, gun safety and other urgent priorities of voters will be smothered by media coverage of impeachment. Pelosi is not wrong about that.

But if Democrats don’t “do their job,” in the words of candidate Warren, they run the risk of appearing ‘soft on corruption,’ and they will have squandered what may be their best opportunity to make Trump resign or be removed. And there is the hope that future revelations about Trump’s corruption will shame nine Republican senators to join Democrats in supporting conviction.

It’s a tough call, and there is no middle ground. But Democrats must be unified for either strategy to achieve their goal.


Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein addresses the question of the hour for Democrats: “Can Democrats Bend Their New Coalition Without Breaking It? The voters who flipped the House aren’t uniformly on board with an ambitious progressive agenda” at The Atlantic: “Though they’ve attracted little attention, recent public polls have sent clear warning signals that the ambitious agenda of the rejuvenated Democratic left could strain the coalition that carried the party to its sweeping gains in the 2018 election…Recent surveys show that such prized progressive ideas as a government-run single-payer health-care system, tuition-free public college, and significantly higher top marginal income-tax rates hold the potential to starkly divide Democrats along racial lines. In polls, these policies have faced substantial skepticism not only from working-class white voters already drawn to President Donald Trump, but also from college-educated whites, whose recoil from him powered last fall’s Democratic wave in white-collar suburbs around the country. Support for these ideas is consistently higher among African Americans and Latinos, though in some cases equivocal even among them…These findings underscore the stakes in the rolling Democratic debate about the best pathway for the party to oust Trump in 2020, particularly as his job-approval rating ticks up in several polls amid broadening satisfaction with the economy.”

Brownstein quotes Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has endorsed Warren for the Democratic nomination. “We need an equal and opposite willingness to shake things up, but in the right way,..Part of the case that progressives will make is not only is there zero tension between electability and bold transformational ideas, but bold transformational ideas that shake up the system are absolutely key to electability against Trump…Meanwhile, centrists attracted to candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar insist that Democrats must find a nominee and formulate an agenda that holds the support of swing voters, who are contented with the economy and may support some of Trump’s economic policies, but dislike his views on race and culture and find him personally unfit for the presidency. “You will never beat him on just turnout, because he does as good or a better job of [inspiring] turnout,” says John Anzalone, a longtime Democratic pollster who has advised Biden. “So you have to do both. You have to do great turnout with your base and also appeal with independents.”

Further, adds Brownstein, “The 2018 results offered evidence for both approaches. The big Democratic gains were driven by much-improved turnout, compared with the 2014 midterms, among young people and minorities; a substantial improvement in vote share among college-educated white voters, especially women; and a smaller recovery among working-class whites, especially in the key Rust Belt battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While self-described independent voters narrowly preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democratic House candidates carried those voters by double digits in 2018, according to network exit polls.” Brownstein cites “a fundamental fault line in a modern Democratic coalition that’s more and more dependent on upscale white voters, who are drawn to the party more for its views on cultural than economic issues” and notes, “Voters have repeatedly demonstrated that if they believe presidential candidates care about their lives, they are willing to overlook disagreements over important components of their agenda—or even, as in Trump’s case in 2016, serious doubts about their character and temperament.”

In “The Rise of White Identity Politics: White voters increasingly see themselves as a threatened ethnic group. By championing an inclusive American identity, liberal politicians can offer an alternative” at The Washington Monthly, Richard D. Kahlenberg takes a look at Duke University political scientist Ashley Jardina’s book, White Identity Politics, and explains, “Trump’s election sparked a furious debate on the left: was his popularity among white voters due more to racism, or to so-called “economic anxiety”? Extensive polling showed that racial resentment correlated much more strongly with support for Trump than did economic factors. But could tens of millions of Trump voters really be out-and-out racists?..Jardina’s book helps make sense of these questions, in part by revealing that white voters can be motivated by race without necessarily being motivated by racism. The traditional social science focus on white hostility and prejudice toward out-groups, Jardina suggests, misses a much bigger phenomenon: in-group white identity and favoritism. Her central finding is that while 9 percent of whites are unabashed racists who hold favorable views of the Ku Klux Klan, a much larger group—between 30 to 40 percent of whites—strongly identify as white, meaning they feel strong attachment to their whiteness. Whites who have high levels of white identity are not confined to the working-class; they make up a “much wider swath of whites,” and perhaps surprisingly, include a disproportionate number of women.”

“This demographic shift,” Kahlenberg continues, “is occurring at a time when whites remain deeply opposed to programs that provide preferences in college admissions and employment for African Americans and Latinos. A February 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 78 percent of whites (and 73 percent of Americans overall) think race should not be a factor in college admissions decisions.  Universities routinely ignore that public sentiment. Careful researchers find that such programs provide a college admissions boost for African Americans over whites that is comparable to scoring 310 points higher on the SAT (out of a possible 1600). The sociologist Arlie Hochschild has documented thatwhites often described these types of preferences as allowing non-white groups to “cut in line.” Perceived as unfair, these programs—as well as other government efforts viewed, rightly or wrongly, as providing targeted aid to minority groups— can trigger white identification. In surveys, three-quarters of whites say it is at least somewhat likely that “members of their racial group are denied jobs because employers are hiring minorities instead.” More than three-quarters also say it is at least somewhat important “for members of their group to work together in order to change laws unfair to whites.” In sum, Jardina notes, “many whites have described themselves as outnumbered, disadvantaged, and even oppressed.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rackich has developed a new statistical tool to illuminate the political context of U.S. Senate races: “PARS [Popularity Above Replacement Senator]…is calculated by measuring the distance between a politician’s net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) in her state and the state’s partisan lean (how much more Republican- or Democratic-leaning it is than the country as a whole).” Rakich uses the tool to look at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s senate race, and writes, “Finally, the senator who ranks last in PARS is also up for reelection in 2020, and it’s a big name: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell manages just a -13 net approval rating despite inhabiting an R+23 state. It’s not crazy to think he could be vulnerable in 2020. Democrats are reportedly trying to recruit former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who raised $8.6 millionfor an unsuccessful 2018 congressional bid, to run against him. But it’s worth remembering that Lucy has held this football in front of Democrats before. In 2014, McConnell also had popularity problems, and Democrats thought they had a top candidate to challenge him in Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell beat Grimes 56 percent to 41 percent.” Rakich provides a chart showing the ratings for every U.S. senator.

Democratic  frontrunner Joe Biden is making a strong bid for working-class voters of all races, as evidenced by his pitch yesterday to Teamsters Local 149 in Pittsburgh. As Kevin Breuninger reports at CNBC: “Biden — speaking to a crowd filled with union members — steered his remarks heavily toward populist issues including corporate greed and income inequality….”I make no apologies — I am a union man. Period,” said Biden, who had received his first union endorsement earlier that morning….”The country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge fund managers,” Biden told the crowd. “It was built by you. It was built by the great American middle class.”…”We need to reward work in this country, not just wealth,” Biden said…The early days of the former Delaware senator’s campaign strategy appear to be aimed at shoring up his support in Pennsylvania, a swing state rich in electoral votes that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton narrowly lost to Trump in the 2016 election.”

William Saletan argues that Dems should “Trust Pelosi” at Slate: “The smarter play, in Pelosi’s view, is to defend policies that are well understood and supported. Let your enemy be the aggressor, and rally your base against his attack. Instead of pushing Medicare for All, the speaker targets President Donald Trump’s assault on the Affordable Care Act. She specifies elements of the ACA that score well in polls: “protections against pre-existing conditions, bans on lifetime limits and annual limits, the Medicare-Medicaid expansion, savings for seniors on their prescription drugs, [and] premium assistance that makes health coverage affordable.”…Pelosi understands that Trump is just a foil. The real goal is to build a relationship with voters. Contrary to perception, she hasn’t ruled out impeachment. But she does think Democrats should talk less about Trump and more about connecting with the public…Some critics see Pelosi’s centrist language as weak and uninspiring. But she cares about policies, not ideologies, so she’s ruthless about embracing or shedding labels. She believes, for instance, that fairness is a more popular and less incendiary term than socialism.,,A party can win more votes, in Pelosi’s view, by claiming to represent the middle than by claiming to represent a wing or a movement. “The Republicans have abandoned the center. The left can own it,” she argued on Tuesday.”

In his article, “Racism on the brain: a neuroscientist explains how the world moved right: The effects of fear and anger [on the brain]” may make us even more polarized, says neuroscientist Bobby Azarian,” at  Salon.com, Chauncey Devega interviews congnitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, who observes “In a healthy functioning brain, an area called the prefrontal cortex, which is slower acting, slows the amygdala response and in essence says to a person, “hey, there’s no rational reason to fear this or to feel angry.” One could really conclude that explicit racism is often the result of an impaired prefrontal cortex response. Understanding racism on the neural level is very important…It is in the realm of science fiction now, but someday in the future, 10, 20 [years] from now, we might be able to identify [the] pathways or abnormalities in the brain which [are] responsible for some of that nasty behavior such as racism and the like…Donald Trump and Steve Bannon understood the psychological effects of fear and they weaponized it to take power. Consider the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where data got into the hands of Bannon [who] used it to manipulate voters. With Trump’s campaign, it seems like they perfected the a strategy of fear mongering to manipulate people into some other type of reality…As more and more damning information comes out about Trump, the public will be able to check their biases and assess the situation more rationally and reasonably. That is my hope for the future.”


Political Strategy Notes

Harry Enten explains why “2020 Polls Lay Out an Ominous Pattern for Trump” with respect to a Trump race against the front-runner for the Democratic nomination: “Voter selection in the Biden/Trump matchup is nearly perfectly predicted by approval of Trump. Among those who approve of Trump, Trump leads 92% to 5%. Among those who disapprove of Trump, Biden is ahead 95% to 3%…The result of this breakdown is the same as it’s been in pretty much every other poll: Biden currently leads Trump…That’s because Trump’s approval rating stands at only 44%, compared to a disapproval rating of 53% among voters. To win in 2020, Trump can’t have the election be a referendum on him if his approval rating is this low. He needs to win a substantial share of those who disapprove of him. So far, that’s not happening..We saw this same paradigm in the 2018 midterms. Democratic House candidates won 90% of those who disapproved of Trump’s job performance, while Republicans took 88% of those who approved. Combining these stats with the fact that Trump’s approval rating (45%) was 9 points below his disapproval rating (55%) meant that Republicans lost control of the House.”

“Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is a presidential phone-buddy and White House regular who’s become one of President Donald Trump’s loudest surrogates,” Alex Isenstadt writes in his article, “The 2019 governor’s race that has Trump’s team sweating” at Politico. “He’s also one of the most unpopular governors in the country, facing a treacherous reelection in November. And the White House, fearing that an embarrassing loss in a deep-red state would stoke doubts about the president’s own ability to win another term, is preparing to go all-in to save him…The Trump team has watched with growing concern as Bevin’s approval ratings have plummeted to the low 30s. With the presidential campaign kicking into gear, the Kentucky governor’s race is likely to be the most closely watched contest in the run-up to 2020, and Trump aides acknowledge alarm bells will go off if one of the president’s closest allies loses in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points.”

In related great news from Kentucky, Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, shares an encouraging graphic about Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election prospects:

But the news is not so good from Florida, as P. R. Lockhart reports at vox.com: “After weeks of debate and over the objection of several voting and civil rights groups, the Florida Legislature has passed a measure requiring people with felony records to pay all financial obligations from their sentencing or get these obligations excused by a judge before they can have their voting rights restored…On Friday, in the closing hours of the legislative session, the Florida House voted 67-42 to pass an amended elections bill containing the repayment requirement. A similar bill cleared the Florida Senate a day earlier…Politico reports that decision to add the requirements to a larger elections bill was an “11th hour” change. Previously, the requirement had been included in two standalone bills, both of which focused on implementing a 2018 ballot initiative that restored voting rights to people with felony records.” As many as 1.4 million Floridians may be affected.

Here’s hoping Democratic strategists are also paying close attention to the analysis of Ari Berman, who comments on the GOP’s voter suppression in Florida in Mother Jones, but also notes: “Arizona, another emerging battleground where Democrats picked up a US Senate seat and the secretary of state’s office in 2018, also passed a new law restricting voter access. Arizona holds early voting until the Friday before an election and then allows counties to open emergency voting centers for people that can’t get to the polls on Election Day. But under the new law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, voters at the emergency centers must sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury claiming they have an unavoidable emergency. If they’re shown not to have a valid emergency, they face up to three years in jail…The Arizona law also gives county boards of supervisors the exclusive authority to open emergency voting centers. This seems aimed at Maricopa County elections director Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who opened five emergency centers before the 2018 election over the objections of the Republican-controlled county board of supervisors. Nearly 3,000 Maricopa County voters cast emergency ballots in 2018.”

The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump infrastructure summit thing got more distraction than traction, owing in part to the Trumpi/Barr and other sideshows, but also because of built-in booby traps. As Gabrielle Gurley notes at The American Prospect, “One problem with a Trumpian national infrastructure program is his belief that states that did not vote for him are not worthy of federal dollars—a mindset that should doom any such initiative in the Democratic-controlled House. There’s a spotlight on broadband, presumably because the president understands that he could enhance his standing with his favored rural constituencies who lack high-speed internet (and could ignore the underserved urban areas he loathes)…For now, the Democrats plan to wait for the White House to release the details of its proposals. But Schumer’s demand that Trump rescind portions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, his signature piece of legislation, to help pay for infrastructure projects is a nonstarter (as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have pointed out) that could crater the talks…Trump has not shown any willingness to reach across the partisan divide on an issue that matters to so many Americans, and he probably won’t start now. Such a gesture would be an aberration in a presidency that has produced no programs of merit.”

This is an insanely big deal,” says Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Point Memo, explaining that “the President’s personal lawyer is conducting unofficial diplomacy abroad, apparently mixed with his own private business and investments, in which he offers friendly treatment from the President of the United States in exchange for those governments targeting the President’s political enemies. This was reported and it wasn’t the biggest story of the week. This is a far, far bigger deal than any other fears about future tampering in a US presidential election using Facebook ads. The stakes are much higher, the danger much greater, when the colluding candidate is also the President of the United States.”

His article title, “Nobody Wants to Run for Senate: Why Democrats are opting to do just about anything else but campaign for Senate these days” grossly overstates the case, but Slate’s Jim Newell makes a worrisome point in noting that “The decisions by three candidates in key states to choose presidential bids over Senate races have given many Democratic voters and operatives apoplectic fits. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke chose to spend the cycle standing on various objects in Iowa instead of doing so in Texas, where he nearly knocked off Sen. Ted Cruz last year and could have opted to try to knock out Sen. John Cornyn in 2020. John Hickenlooper, a popular two-term governor from Colorado, decided to launch a go-nowhere presidential campaign instead of challenging the state’s extremely vulnerable Republican senator, Cory Gardner. And it now appears that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, one of the two Democrats capable of winning elections in Montana—the other, Jon Tester, already serves in the Senate—will also launch a go-nowhere presidential campaign instead of running against Republican Sen. Steve Daines…A number of other high-profile Democrats who aren’t running for president—there’s still time!—have also turned down Senate bids. Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro announced this week that he wouldn’t challenge Cornyn, either, while first-term Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne opted against challenging Sen. Joni Ernst, just as former governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack did in February. Perhaps most notably of all, Stacey Abrams, who captivated Democrats in Georgia’s gubernatorial race last year, recently informed Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that she wouldn’t challenge Republican Sen. David Perdue this cycle.”

Here’s a messaging tip from “A new brain study shows a better way to engage voters on climate changeNeuroscience startup studies emotional intensity of response to different terms” by Joe Romm at Think Progress: “The phrase “climate crisis” engages voters emotionally better than either “climate change” or “global warming.”..That’s the new finding from the brain science startup SPARK Neuro, which used an electroencephalogram (EEG) and other bio-measurements to examine how 120 Democrats, Republicans, and independents responded to different terms for the growing threat we face from rising levels of carbon pollution…According to the study, “climate crisis” got a 60% higher emotional response from Democrats than “climate change.” It triggered triple the response from Republicans.”


Political Strategy Notes

As Democrats debate the pros and cons of impeachment, one thing is clear: It’s not like Dems are going to need more anti-Trump publicity — the negative revelations are going to keep on coming, regardless of whether or not Dems impeach him. As Mike Allen reports in “Trump’s World Faces 16 Criminal and Civil Probes” in his Axios AM e-blast: “Post-Mueller, Garrett M. Graff of WIRED reports that Trump’s world “still appears to face 16 known criminal and civil probes, from as many as a dozen different federal, state, and local prosecutors…Four cases are being pursued by federal authorities in New York. … “New York state and local authorities are also building cases, both criminal and civil…These include tax and immigration issues for Trump businesses, plus inauguration spending, the Trump Foundation and the NRA…That’s not counting the dozen cases that the special counsel’s office referred to other law enforcement agencies, cases mentioned in Mueller’s report but redacted so as to obscure any details about them…Why it matters: “At this rate, Trump’s investigations may outlast his presidency…See the list.”

At Campaigns and Elections, Sean J. Miller writes in his article, “Is the Chase for Small-Dollar Donors a Problem for 2020 Democrats” that “In February, the DNC announced that for candidates to get on stage at its two presidential primary debates, they would have to meet certain fundraising criteria. Specifically, they would need to raise money from 65,000 donors in at least 20 different states…We have optimized, because of the 65,000 small-dollar donor debate prerequisite, for low-dollar acquisition right now,” said Shomik Dutta, a partner at Higher Ground Labs, which has funded a slate of political technology startups over the past two cycles. “So every presidential candidate is making a low-dollar argument to coastal activists and what we are missing is the opportunity to do some framing of our general [election] opponent in the states that matter.”

Democrats may want to keep an eye on the latest buzz about “modern monetary theory” (MMT), the big biz version of which is lightly explored in Ben Holland’s “Dalio Says Something Like MMT Is Coming, Whether We Like It Or Not” at Bloomberg.com: “Central banking as we know it is on the way out, and it’s “inevitable” that something like modern monetary theory will replace it, billionaire investor Ray Dalio said…The doctrine, known as MMT, says that governments should manage their economies through spending and taxes — instead of relying on independent central banks to do it via interest rates. It also seeks to allay fears over budget deficits and national debts by arguing that countries like the U.S., which have their own currency, can’t go broke and have more room to spend than is usually supposed — provided inflation is subdued, as it is now…Debate over MMT, which languished in obscurity for decades, has exploded in recent months. The idea has been criticized by a series of financial heavyweights, from Warren Buffett to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. But Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, said policy makers will have little choice but to embrace it.” Paul Krugman has a more skepical take right here.

In their poorly-titled, but otherwise informative Daily Beast post, “Joe Biden’s Union Pitch Is a Throwback Aimed at White Males,” Scott Bixby and Gideon Resnick take a peek at former Vice President Biden’s working-class outreach strategy. Their observations include this riff on a Biden comment: “I make no apologies: I am a union man, period,” Biden said at his kickoff rally at the Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, to an audience largely composed of union workers. “The country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge fund managers—it was built by you. It was built by the great American middle class, and the American middle class was built by you, by unions!”…But Biden’s bid to build a strong coalition of union supporters in the primary and beyond has, so far, frequently been focused on largely white, largely male career fields and labor organizations—electricians, firefighters, Teamsters—rather than the nation’s increasingly diverse unionized workforces.” It’s way early, guys. Biden just launched his campaign and he can’t be everywhere at once. He will certainly be reaching out to workers of color and the organizations that represent them.

Noting that “President Donald Trump hits a new high on his economic approval ratings in a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, reaching 56% of Americans saying he’s doing a good job on the economy,” CNN’s Grace Sparks adds that “The economy is the President’s best issue tested in the new poll, with his other approval ratings all below 50%. Even among those who disapprove of the way the president is handling his job generally, 20% say they approve of his work on the economy. That’s larger than crossover approval for any other issue by 12 points.” However, Trump usually finds ways to distract media coverage from his better talking points with some new outrage. But Democratic candidates can’t rely on Trump’s distraction du jour; they must have responses that reveal the negative effects of Republican economic policies and the benefits of Democratic alternatives.

At Brookings, Richard V. Reeves has some data-rich responses to recent economic trends Democrats can mine to good effect, including: “In the last few years, as the zombie gradually wakes up, household incomes and wages have begun to nudge upwards – but families are still having to work more hours to get the income they need. Women are working more, and earning more (though the pay gap remains). But as men work less, and earn less, many families are simply standing still in economic terms. Since 1979, the median male wage in the US has dropped by 1.4% for whites– and by 9% and 8% for black and Hispanic men, respectively. Workers at the top of the earnings and education distribution have seen their paychecks continue to fatten: not so on the middle and bottom rungs of the labor market. Wage growth remains torpid in the middle of the distribution…Most American workers are still paid by the hour, and half of them have no formal control over their schedules. Two in five hourly-paid workers aged between 26 and 32 know their schedules less than a week in advance. Hard to arrange childcare on that notice. Many American workers are fighting, like the trade unions of old, on two fronts: for money, and for time.”

And let no Democratic candidate fail to read Heidi Schierholz’s “More than eight million workers will be left behind by the Trump overtime proposal” at The Economic Policy Institute, which notes: “On March 22, 2019, the Department of Labor published a proposal to set the salary threshold under which almost all workers are entitled to overtime pay to $679 per week, or $35,308 for a full-year worker, in 2020.1 The adoption of this proposal would leave behind millions of workers who would have gotten new or strengthened overtime protections under regulations finalized in 2016.2 This analysis compares the economic impact of the Trump administration proposal to the 2016 rule.” Among the key findings: “…The 8.2 million workers left behind by the Trump proposal include 3.1 million workers who would have gotten new overtime protections under the 2016 rule and 5.1 million workers who would have gotten strengthened protections under the 2016 rule…The 8.2 million workers who would be left behind include 4.2 million women, 3.0 million people of color, 4.7 million workers without a college degree, and 2.7 million parents of children under the age of 18…The annual wage gains from workers who get new protections are $1.2 billion dollars less under the Trump proposal than under the 2016 rule…”

An In These Times staff post, “We Desperately Need Medicare for All. These 10 Statistics Prove It,” provides some data ammo as the health care reform debate gathers momentum. A few of their  nuggets: “79% – Increased death rate for cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy in 2016…$1,443 – U.S. per capita spending on pharmaceutical costs in 2016, the highest in the world…44% – Americans who didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured because of cost…530,000 – Estimated number of families who file bankruptcy each year due to medical issues and bills…”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Washington Monthly, TDS contributing editor Andrew Levison proposes “A New Approach for Democrats: Instead of trying to be a single ‘big tent,’ what if the party took a page out of the parliamentarian playbook?” Levison, author of The White Working Class Today, writes, “While Democrats frequently pay lip service to the idea that their party is a “big tent” or a “broad coalition,” they do not seriously grapple with the implications of that view. If you accept the notion that, to win majorities, the Democratic Party must be a “big tent,” then the fundamental challenge facing the party is not one side or another winning a “battle for the soul of the party.” It’s overcoming the obstacles to creating and maintaining the broadest possible Democratic coalition…Consider how coalition management problems tend to be handled in parliamentary systems. Since World War II, there have been a variety of left-of-center coalitions in Europe and Scandinavia. These were composed of several distinct political parties rather than a single “umbrella” or “big tent” organization. Each party had its own distinct identity, including a formal, detailed platform and agenda, as well as a robust and structured system of internal debate and discussion. These distinct parties offered the larger coalition several advantages over an American style “big-tent” approach…Imagine what might happen if the Democratic Party abandoned its identity as an amorphous “big tent,” and instead became a more formal political coalition between two groups.” Read Levison’s article for an in-depth analysis.

Gabriela Resto-Montero reports at vox.com that “Overall, a majority of Americans oppose impeachment with only 37 percent saying they favor starting the process and 56 percent saying they oppose the idea,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Unsurprisingly, support for impeaching President Trump is divided along partisan lines…Most Democrats — 62 percent — support starting impeachment proceedings, and 53 percent of Democrats said they strongly believe the House should begin impeaching Trump. Almost every Republican respondent was against impeachment; 87 percent said they were opposed, with 78 percent saying they were strongly opposed. Independents weren’t largely in favor either, with only 36 percent saying they feel impeachment should begin.”

Sure, the Democrats must proceed with their investigations of Trump’s Russia collusion and justice obstruction. But Matt Ford makes a good argument that “Trump Is Building His Own Case For Impeachment” at The New Republic, arguing “Democrats are debating whether Trump’s actions over the past two years are enough to justify his impeachment. If they decide in the affirmative, they would need to convince America that his threat to the nation’s constitutional order is so great and immediate that the 2020 election is too distant to wait for the nation’s verdict. But Trump might beat them to it…The president doesn’t seem interested in disputing the Democrats’ portrayal of him beyond soundbites like “No obstruction!” If anything, he seems almost eager to prove them right.”

While the WaPo-ABC poll also shows a majority of the public expressing confidence that the Mueller report was fair, many progressives feel that Mueller caved in his conclusions. Bill Maher gives a blistering voice to this view in his latest ‘Real Time’ rant:

Also at Vox, Sean Illing interviews Duke political scientist Ashley Jardina about her new book,  White Identity Politics,   which mines data from a decade of American National Election Studies surveys. Illing notes that “Jardina claims that white Americans — roughly 30 to 40 percent of them — now identify with their whiteness in a politically meaningful way. Importantly, this racial solidarity doesn’t alwaysoverlap with racism, but it does mean that racial identity is becoming a more salient force in American politics.” Illing says “she believes America’s diversification has triggered a host of anxieties about who holds power and who does not, and what she thinks we can do to deal with the problems this anxiety has created.” At one pointy, Jardina notes, “Deep down it’s about this fear that America isn’t going to look like them anymore, that they’ll lose their majority and with it their cultural and political power. It’s also tied up in the belief that whites are experiencing discrimination now.”

In yet another Vox article, P. R. Lockhart warns that “GOP-led states move the war on voting to a new front: voter registration.” Lockhart writes, “Republican lawmakers in a handful of states have introduced measures that would impose stricter rules on voters and voter registration groups, a policy shift that voting rights groups and advocates say could have a chilling effect on upcoming elections and introduce a new wave of voting restrictions in the US…On April 25, the Tennessee state Senate voted to pass a measure that would impose fines and penalties on voter registration groups that submit incomplete forms to the state. And in Texas, legislators are considering a law that would punish people for errors on their voter registration forms or for voting if they are ineligible…The proposals have been strongly condemned by activists and civil rights groups, who argue that the measures are unnecessary and could hamper efforts to mobilize some voters.”

In their Politico article, “Democrats see Biden as wobbly 2020 front-runner: The former veep’s entry into the race opens a more confrontational phase of the campaign,” David Siders and Christopher Cadelago round up his assets and liabilities as a presidential candidate. Among his more important assets: “Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that “if the polls mean anything, there is a great reservoir of goodwill for him…I think Biden, by who he is and what he represents and what he has fought for his entire life, makes a very important contrast to Donald Trump,” Weingarten said.” But Elizabeth Warren, quoted in the article sees Biden as vulnerable on key issues of concern to working-class families, noting “Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies…How did Joe Biden raise so much money in one day? Well, it helps that he hosted a swanky private fundraiser for wealthy donors at the home of the guy who runs Comcast’s lobbying shop.”

So, “Who Takes A Hit Now That Biden’s In The Race?” the FiveThirtyEight stable of commentators shares some thoughts: “natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): Maybe almost everyone is negatively impacted in some way, or maybe almost everyone except Elizabeth Warren…For the more moderate white Democrats, like Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Biden is sort of running adjacent to their lane, if not actually in their lane…He also has a lot of the black vote, so Biden’s candidacy complicates the ability of Kamala Harris and Cory Booker to win South Carolina…If you’re Bernie, now you can’t really call yourself the front-runner. perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): For all the candidates who are making electability an implicit (O’Rourke, Jay Inslee) or explicit (Klobuchar, Tim Ryan) part of their campaigns, Biden is a very big threat…”

President Obama provided a moving tribute to one of his mentors, former Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who died on Sunday: “In Dick, I saw someone who wasn’t a Republican or Democrat first, but a problem-solver,” Obama said in a statement, “an example of the impact a public servant can make by eschewing partisan divisiveness to instead focus on common ground…For thirty-six years, Richard Lugar proved that pragmatism and decency work—not only in Washington but all over the world.” Though he could often be a tough conservative, Lugar displayed a striking spirit of civility that no other Repubican could match. His 2012 loss of his senate seat may have presaged the transformation of the GOP into the party of the ‘White Walkers’ we see today. We can’t really liken Trump to ‘The Night King,’ who doesn’t run his mouth all day and half the night. But Mitch McConnell’s offer to serve as “the grim reaper” for needed legislative reforms is close enough.


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Political Strategy Notes

Elaine Godfrey explains why “The Democrats Aren’t Really in Disarray Over What to Do About Mueller: Lawmakers are, for the most part, united behind three immediate goals” at The Atlantic: “A review of Democratic lawmakers’ statements and interviews with more than a dozen Democratic House aides demonstrate that while there are some stylistic differences in how lawmakers are choosing to respond to the Mueller report’s findings, almost all of them agree on three immediate goals: They want to read the full, unredacted report. They want both Attorney General William Barr and Mueller to testify before Congress. And they want each of the relevant House committees to proceed with their investigations. They may argue in the meantime about what the end goal of those efforts should be, but overall, claims of Democratic dysfunction belie these points of consensus…Democratic lawmakers across the ideological spectrum have reacted to the report with varying degrees of urgency and outrage, but almost all of them—progressives and moderates alike—are demanding the same follow-up steps, starting with the release of the unredacted Mueller report, which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler subpoenaed on Friday…Democrats have an incentive to appear on message, which could account for some of the agreement. There are genuine tensions in the party about how aggressively Democrats should go after the president in light of the special counsel’s findings.”

At Politico, Steven Perlberg’s “How the Intercept Is Fueling the Democratic Civil War: The national security site has found fresh energy as a savvy, progressive attack dog in national politics. But is it undermining its own side?” provides a number of provocative observations about the Glen Greenwald-founded, Pierre Omidyar-funded online news outlet, including: “The Intercept faces a political question, as well: As the Democratic Party strives to mount a coherent attack against a president it loathes, will the site’s belligerent strategy be effective, or will it handicap the only Democrats who have a serious chance of capturing the White House? Depending on whom you ask, the Intercept is either cleansing the Democratic Party and pushing it to be more accountable to voters and regular people—or it is a Breitbart of the left, trafficking in drive-by hit pieces, an approach that will ultimately undercut the larger goals the site supports. Says one Democratic operative, frustrated with the Intercept’s relentless attacks on the Democratic center: “Grim apparently doesn’t ever want to win an election again and is dead set against anyone who does.””

The winner of the 2016 popular vote for President of the United States has some advice for Democrats regarding impeachment: “My perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of [Russian President] Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country…We have to remember that this is bigger than politics…Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country … It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless…For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential … It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

From “Kate Manne on why female candidates get ruled “unelectable so quickly, in a vox.com interview by Ezra Klein: “Because I think of misogyny as a hostility women face, rather than a psychological property men feel, I think it’s been coming across pretty clearly in the population-level patterns of how much support female candidates are getting compared to white male candidates. It’s depressing watching the four Bs — Biden, Bernie, Beto, and Buttigieg — rise in the polls and generate enthusiasm beyond the substance that may be there while women trail behind them with no plausible explanation for why we see that striking pattern. It’s always possible it’s just due to the female candidates being less exciting, but I have a hard time believing it in this race…My worry is electability is a smokescreen for for this sadly common thing, which is not wanting to support a female candidate…If we knew for sure that a candidate couldn’t beat Trump, that would be reason not to support them. But electability isn’t a static social fact; it’s a social fact we’re constructing. Part of what will make someone unelectable is people give up on them in a way that would be premature, rather than going to the mat for them. If you’re really worried that an otherwise excellent candidate won’t be elected, isn’t that a reason to fight if there’s a decent chance that people can be brought around and convinced?”

If elected, former Vice President Joe Biden at age 78, would become the oldest person ever inaugurated President of the United States. But the other side of age is experience. In “Biden Would be Arguably the Most Experienced New President Ever,” Kyle Kondik writes that  “Biden has spent 44 years in major elected office: He served from 1973 to 2009 in the Senate, and then an additional eight years as vice president. He had successes in that role, and Biden’s time as vice president makes him a credible presidential contender, as VP expert Joel Goldstein argued in a Crystal Ball piece earlier this year. If one also counts Biden’s pre-Senate elected experience, two years on the New Castle County Council, he has 46 years of elected experience…Biden’s 46 years of formal public office experience would dwarf that of the current leader, Democrat Martin Van Buren, whose 31 years in public office currently stands as the highest total of public office experience of any incoming president, according to Vox’s count. The leaders in military experience are Whig Zachary Taylor and Republican Dwight Eisenhower, both of whom served for roughly four decades in the military prior to being elected president.”

In “Impeachment: The False Choices,” Robert Kuttner writes at The American Prospect: “If some Democrats think that an impeachment will crowd out discussions of, say, debt relief for college students, or shoring up Social Security, or a massive public infrastructure program, or an expansion of Medicare, they misunderstand politics, and underestimate the voters…People are actually capable of focusing on more than one thing. And the more Trump is consumed by defending himself against the corrupt reality of his presidency and calling on Republicans to spend political capital to save his sorry neck, the more he is weakened in general…Moreover, as Elizabeth Warren put it so well, there is a constitutional duty to impeach, whether or not it is politically convenient. In fact, there is no contradiction between pursuing an impeachment and debating other issues where Trump’s position is unpopular.”

“The point of the next several months is to build a national dialogue about the Trump administration’s rampant corruption,” Alex Shephard writes in “Should Democrats Impeach Trump? Wrong Question. Allowing the president’s crimes and misdemeanors to take a backseat to impeachment’s political implications does little to emphasize the rule of law” at The New Republic. “There is no vexing, existential, binary quandary that needs an immediate answer. “To impeach, or not to impeach,” that is not the question. Impeachment, after all, is a process—a lengthy one at that—and not a magic wand. Democrats can and should build the case against Trump—and, perhaps, the impeachment case against Trump—publicly, in the form of hearings and other investigations. Through the public testimony of Robert Mueller and William Barr, and of administration officials and Trumpworld associates like former White House Counsel Don McGahn, former Communications Director and Trump confidant Hope Hicks, and, perhaps, members of Trump’s own family, a narrative of this administration’s high crimes and misdemeanors is likely to emerge.”

Shephard continues, “Contrary to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments last month—“Impeachment is so divisive to the country … I don’t think we should go down that path”—it is that path that will help locate a national point of consensus. Pelosi may have been right in concluding Trump is “just not worth it,” but the Constitution is…For other Senior Democrats, however, there is a third path, and it’s probably the best one—one that takes into account the president’s wrongdoings, and likely the politics, as well. Now that the Mueller report is out in the open, House hearings can probe the president’s many scandals—not only looking at obstruction of justice and “collusion,” but also a host of other issues, from the Trump administration’s shameful handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to the president’s financial dealings and cozy relationship with strongmen, industrialists, and oligarchs…It’s a wide-angled approach, but one that endeavors to put the scope of the president’s misconduct on full display. These hearings may very well turn up impeachable offenses, but they also have the secondary effect of highlighting the Democrats’ best message heading into 2020: That they are a party bent on restoring good government, not just on ousting a bad president.”

At HuffPo, Ariel Edwards-Levy reports “Most Democrats harbor a deep dislike for Fox News, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. But fewer than 1 in 5 have a problem with Democratic candidates choosing to appear on the network, with most saying they don’t have any opinion on the matter…The new survey found that nearly three-quarters of Democrats hold an unfavorable view of Fox News, with 59% saying they feel strongly unfavorable toward it…Only 6% of Democrats describe themselves as regular viewers…Just 18% of Democrats say that Democratic presidential candidates should refuse to make appearances on Fox News. Twenty-seven percent say that candidates should go on the network, but 55% ― the majority ― say they either aren’t sure or don’t really care.”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein sees three political trends deepening as a result of the Republicans decision to double-down on backing Trump, even after the Mueller report: “The electoral bet embodied in this choice is to bind the party’s fate tightly to Trump’s. His tumultuous presidency has accelerated and deepened three political trends that predated him. One is to solidify the Republican hold on what I’ve called the “coalition of restoration”: older, blue-collar, and evangelical whites. The second is to alienate the most ardent elements of the Democratic coalition: young people and minorities. The third is to weaken the Republican position with college-educated, white-collar white voters, particularly in the suburbs surrounding major metropolitan areas…The Mueller report may not dislodge significant elements of Trump’s electoral coalition, some of whom thrill to his behavior and others who accept it in the same implicit bargain as do Republicans in Congress. But it seems highly likely to reinforce the doubts of the nearly 55 percent of Americans who expressed unease, if not outright revulsion, about him as president through their votes for other candidates in the 2016 election and for Democrats in the 2018 House races.”

At Vox, Ezra Klein comments on Democratic strategy in the wake of the Mueller report: “As I understand the House Democrats’ plan, it’s to use the Mueller report to launch investigations, send out subpoenas, and hold public hearings. All of that could lead to revelations that tilt the public toward impeachment, it could prove that the public doesn’t consider these revelations important enough to merit impeachment, or it could simply inform the public to help them make a decision in the 2020 election…Either way, it keeps the focus on Trump’s crimes and his lies, rather than overwhelming that conversation with a debate over removing Trump from office at a time when there’s no prospect of marshaling the votes to actually remove him from office. It seems like a reasonable strategy to me.”

“Eight House Republicans, including the three from districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, have been named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s list of incumbents expected to face tough re-elections, notes Simone Pathe at Roll Call. “Only one of the eight Republicans on the initial list is in a race rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. The rest are in contests rated as tilting, leaning or likely to remain Republican. The eight endangered Republicans include: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton; Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon; New York Rep. Lee Zeldin; New York Rep. John Katko; Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick; Texas Rep. Michael McCaul; Texas Rep. Pete Olson; Texas Rep. Will Hurd; Texas Rep. John Carter; and Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

“To understand Pennsylvania’s fast-changing political geography, look no further than Tom Killion. After Democrats recently flipped six state Senate seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Killion is one of the chamber’s last Republicans standing in those areas — and target No. 1 for Democrats in 2020…Located in Pennsylvania’s southeastern corner, Killion’s district is part of the heavily populated and politically moderate suburbs of Philadelphia. Once a bastion of Republican power, voter registration has shifted to favor Democrats over the past couple of decades, and Trump’s election seemed to accelerate Republican losses and bolster Democrats’ political activism there…Last year, the suburbs roared again , flipping three congressional seats outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to Democrats. Victories in state legislative races exceeded the expectations of Democratic strategists, and gave the party a majority of suburban Philadelphia’s seats for the first time in modern history.” Republicans are worried: “They’re so angry at Trump that they’re just pulling the straight D lever in the general election,” Killion said.” — from “As suburbs roar, Pennsylvania Democrats pick top 2020 target” by AP’s Marc Levy in The Morning Call.

Writing at npr.org, Ashley Lopez, Brett Jaspers and Sergio Martinez-Beltran have an update on GOP suppression laws, “After Democrats Surged In 2018, Republican-Run States Eye New Curbs On Voting,” which notes that “After high turnout in last year’s midterm elections propelled Democrats to a new House majority and big gains in the states, several Republican-controlled state legislatures are attempting to change voting-related rules in ways that might reduce future voter turnout…In Texas, state lawmakers are considering adding criminal penalties for people who improperly fill out voter registration forms. Arizona Republicans are proposing new voting rules that could make it more complicated to cast an early ballot. In Tennessee, GOP lawmakers are considering a bill that would fine groups involved in voter registration drives that submit incomplete forms…If enacted, these proposals could have an impact on future elections, especially in Arizona and Texas, where demographic and political trends are making both states more competitive on the national level for the first time in decades.” Read the article for more details on each proposal.

Heather Digby Parton has a warning for Democrats at salon.com. Noting the decay of accountability since the Watergate scandal, Parton writes “I hate to say it, but the Democrats have been accomplices. Throughout this anything-goes evolution in our political culture, they have played their own brand of politics. They accuse the Republicans of being craven and unethical for enabling Donald Trump, yet when faced with scathing bill of indictment in Robert Mueller’s report, they are openly calculating whether doing their duty will work to their advantage or not. They have become partners in this scheme that allows the Republicans to sink to ever greater depredations, and always seem to find a reason not to stop them…We have reached a turning point in this ongoing crisis. If someone as obvious and inept as Trump can get away with all this, imagine what a competent authoritarian demagogue could do. Allowing Trump to just ride out his term and perhaps even win another one — which is entirely conceivable, I’m sorry to say — could be catastrophic. If Democrats refuse to take the risk of changing this dynamic once and for all, someone much smarter and stronger than Donald Trump is going to come along, very soon, and take advantage of the destruction of our political culture to fundamentally change our democracy in ways we will not be able to fix. At some point there will be no way to “right the ship” anymore. It will be sunk…If Democrats don’t take a stand this time, it’s very likely they won’t get another chance.”

Concern about the Trump campaign’s realtionship with Russians cerainly merits intense media scrutiny and reporting. But if you want to get up to speed on the disturbing relationship between Trump and  Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. read “The Other Collusion Scandal” by Paul Gottinger and Daniel Kelman at The Progressive. An excerpt: “During the first two years of his presidency, Trump’s foreign policy has lined up tightly with the interests of the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman. In a remarkable number of instances, Trump has sided with these two crown princes over his own State Department, intelligence officials, and even Cabinet members…Like Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have repressive autocratic governments with atrocious human rights records; however, unlike Russia, these two countries have enormous wealth and can operate under the cover of being U.S. allies.”

Among the many insights provided by Gene Sperling’s article, “Economic Dignity” at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas: “If we are to seek an economic metric worthy of serving as an economic North Star, it would have to analyze the cumulative impact of the economy and economic policy on human well-being. The 2009 Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance led by Joseph Stiglitz, Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi explicitly sought to start a global discussion of how best to measure quality of life and well-being, and not just GDP—a project Stiglitz and the OECD have continued. While there is no escaping qualitative judgements in defining an economic dignity goal, if we’re in search of a more meaningful metric, it would be an evolving “Economic Dignity Index” that looked at the various end impacts on human well-being: health care, college opportunity, second chances, affordable housing, environmental quality, and worker participation.”

in his article, “How to Win” at Dissent, Nelson Lichtenstein provides some instrucrive obseevations, including: “On the one hand, something is stirring in the land. The red-state teacher strikes, the Democratic sweep in the 2018 midterms, the Los Angeles teachers’ historic victory in early January, and the organizing success unions have enjoyed among millennial wordsmiths in media, both dead tree and on the web, testify to the spread of the union idea in even the most unexpected venues. In 2018 more workers took part in strikes than in any year since 1986. Fully 62 percent of Americans support unions, according to a recent Gallup poll, a number that has increased 14 points over the last decade…The 2018 election reinforced the critical role unions play in electing progressive, pro-worker candidates. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, union-household voters made up 25 percent of the electorate and helped sweep Democrats to victory up and down the ballot…Without unions to institutionalize them, waves of activism dissipate. The energy that went into the first Obama campaign evaporated after the thrilling election celebrations. The Occupy movement in 2011 fizzled when the tents cleared. And the contemporary anti-Trump resistance lacks an organizational structure independent of the people it has put into office. In contrast, effective trade unionism contributes not only to the mobilization of voters at the climax of a campaign season, but in the aftermath as well, when the political and organizational trench warfare continues in a large array of legislative chambers, administrative agencies, and community political institutions…”