washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Domenico Montanaro reports in “2020 Electoral Map Ratings: Trump Slides, Biden Advantage Expands Over 270 Votes” at npr.org that “It’s hard to believe that the hole President Trump dug for himself could get deeper, but it has…A record and widening majority of Americans disapprove of the job he’s doing when it comes to handling the coronavirus pandemic; he gets poor scores on race relations; he’s seen a suburban erosion despite efforts to win over suburban voters with fear; and all that has led to a worsened outlook for Trump against Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election…As a result, in the past month and a half, the latest NPR analysis of the Electoral College has several states shifting in Biden’s favor, and now has a 297-170 advantage over Trump with exactly three months to go until Election Day…Here are our changes:

Colorado from Lean D to Likely D
Florida from Toss Up to Lean D
New Hampshire from Toss Up to Lean D
Nevada
from Toss Up to Lean D
Pennsylvania from Toss Up to Lean D
Georgia
from Lean R to Toss up.”

At Newsweek, David H. Freedman warns that “The pandemic has in fact driven up voter interest in mail-ins on both sides—but it may be too late to make the adjustment. Setting up a mail-in ballot system efficient enough to handle a large percentage of a state’s voters takes years, says Kathleen Hale, an Auburn University political scientist and election expert who works with officials throughout the country to help ensure elections go smoothly. Nevertheless, in response to the pandemic, dozens of states, including New York, have tried to vastly expand their mail-in capabilities—from supplementary absentee ballots to universal access—virtually overnight. They could face serious problems with the distribution, collection and counting of those ballots, says Hale, author of “How We Vote: Innovation in American Elections.” “There’s substantial risk in trying to change the system on the fly,” she says.”

Freedman continues, “Twelve states passed legislation since March making it easier to vote by mail, but battleground states have drawn the most scrutiny. Small shifts in voting in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina could swing 15 or more electoral votes one way or the other. The Texas governor and its Republican legislative majority have fought to block any expansion of mail-in voting. A pro-mail-in-vote group sued the state and won in a federal court, only to be overturned in a higher court when the state appealed…Pennsylvania gets a C from the Brookings Institute’s mail-in-voting accessibility scorecard. So does Georgia, which sent out mail-in ballots for its primary. Under pressure from the Republican state legislature, however, the state does not plan to follow suit in the general election. Michigan gets a B, but Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds if the state doesn’t back off its support for voting by mail. Trump has so far refrained from making similar threats against Florida over its embrace of mail-in voting, perhaps because it’s where he himself votes—by mail, at least in the case of this year’s primary. In states that succumb to Republican pressure to hang onto restrictions on mail-in ballots, most voters will have only one option, says Hale: to endure long lines at the polls.”

From “Want #NeverBiden Holdouts to Join #TeamJoe? Take it from this Bernie voter: Show them some respect” by Erica Etelson at medium.com: “When you try to convince someone to do or believe something, they get defensive and double-down in their opposition. This isn’t unique to so-called “Bernie bros”, it’s part of the human condition. If you want someone to consider the merits of what you’re saying, put aside your agenda and have a friendly conversation…Listen to their reasons for refusing to vote for Biden. Put yourself in their shoes –if you believed a certain candidate was the one and only person capable of plugging the hole in our ship only to see that candidate defeated by someone you believe drilled that hole, would you feel conflicted?..Respect their feelings, even if you don’t share them, and understand the following: Grief has five stages: Denial (“I can’t believe he dropped out”); anger (“The Democratic establishment screwed him over again”); bargaining (“Maybe Biden will drop out and Bernie can run”); depression (“Progressives will never win and our country is doomed”); and acceptance (“This totally blows but we have to make the best of a horrible situation”). Bernie supporters are at some stage of this grief process, and understanding their emotional state willl help you navigate the conversation.”

Etelson, author of “Beyond Contempt: How Liberals Can Communcicate Across the Great Divide,  goes on to suggest ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ questions and statements to generate a mutually-respectful conversation and suggests four principles for questions and statements to “avoid triggering defensiveness,: including: “1. They’re phrased subjectively, not as incontrovertible truth.; 2. They acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings.; 3. They acknowledge Biden’s flaws.; 4. They refrain from scolding the other person’s political purity…This last point is key. Sometimes leftists come across as self-righteous and contemptuous of those who don’t share their beliefs. Clinton’s campaign consultant says that Clinton’s highly contemptuous “deplorables” gaffe cost her the election. No one is charmed by a finger wagging in their face — not Trump voters, not swing voters and not Bernie voters…This habit of scolding ideological advesaries is exacerbated with so much of our political discourse now taking place online. Facebook is chockablock with obnoxious memes that preemptively blame “Bernie bros” for throwing the election to Trump.”

In “‘Hating Joe Biden doesn’t juice up their base’: Key swing state slips away from Trump: Trump has trailed in every public poll in Pennsylvania since June,”  Holly Otterbeing writes at Politico: “Senior citizens and suburban voters are sinking President Donald Trump’s campaign across the country…But here in Pennsylvania — home to one of the largest populations of residents age 65 or older and where suburbanites comprise more than half of the electorate — their defection to Joe Biden is hurting Trump even more acutely…It’s a very big problem in a swing state that’s central to his Rust Belt path to victory. Four years ago, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to carry Pennsylvania, in part by winning older and suburban voters, as well as blue-collar white workers in ancestrally Democratic areas. Now, with less than 100 days till Election Day, surveys show those voters are eyeing something different yet again.Joe Biden has an overall early lead in the state of 6 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average, and has led Trump in all 12 public polls released since the beginning of June.”

Harry Enten writes in “Trump must win North Carolina. He’s losing there” at CNN Politics: “Absentee ballots start getting mailed to North Carolina voters in just 33 days, and a new CBS News/YouGov poll reveals ominous news for President Donald Trump in the Tar Heel state…Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a narrow 48% to 44% advantage among likely voters. It’s the latest CNN approved poll to find Biden ahead in North Carolina. Last week, a NBC News/Marist College poll gave Biden a 7-point lead…To be clear, there are pretty much no paths to Trump winning the presidency without a victory in North Carolina. Additionally a Biden win in the state could help aid Democrats in their bid for the Senate majority come next January…North Carolina is best described as a swing state that tilts toward the Republican Party. Trump won it by 4 points in 2016, so this new CBS News/YouGov poll is the inverse of that…If Biden’s current polling edge in North Carolina were to be the final result, it would be the best Democratic performance since southerner Jimmy Carter won the state by 11 points in 1976…No Republican has won the presidency without North Carolina since Dwight Eisenhower did it in 1956.”

In “The choice: A healer or a heel,” Glenn Altschuler explains at msn.com why the 2020 election is more about public health than anything else: “In the midst of a pandemic, in which the United States has suffered more fatalities per capita than all but a handful of other nations, Nov. 3, 2020, is almost certain to be a referendum on public health. Former Vice President Joe Biden has already defined the presidential election as, in essence, a contest between an empathetic and experienced healer and a callous and clueless heel…The strategy appears to be working. A poll completed in mid-July found that 54 percent of Americans trust Biden to address the Coronavirus crisis, while only 34 percent expressed confidence in President Trump. In another survey, Americans gave Biden a substantial edge over Trump on a range of personality traits: honesty, cares about the needs of ordinary people, a good role model, even-tempered…African Americans and Latinos, it is now clear, are about three times more likely to be infected with the Coronavirus as their white neighbors and nearly twice as likely to die from the disease. Many of them have front-line jobs, rely on public transportation, share living spaces with other people, including elderly relatives, have underlying medical conditions and less access to quality healthcare. They are collateral damage of Trump’s politicization of COVID-19.”

Altschuler adds, “Other casualties include Americans over the age of 65, who are more likely than younger people to support mask wearing and social distancing and who are apprehensive about a premature reopening of the economy. Many in this age cohort, which was responsible in no small measure for Trump’s victory in 2016, now find the president “self-absorbed” and “not serious” – and prefer Biden…In 2020, Democrats should also return to the public health agenda that resonated with so many voters in the mid-term elections. Despite Trump’s promises, they can point out, his administration did not even draft – let alone get a Congress controlled by Republicans to pass – a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they will no doubt remind voters, Trump’s Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare(which, according to a Fox News poll, is supported by 56 percent of Americans), a move that would eliminate coverage for as many as 23 million Americans (in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic that has significantly increased the number of people without health insurance)…the Democratic campaign can tout Biden’s healthcare plan, which features lowering the age to opt into Medicare to 60; offering a “public option” to anyone not satisfied with employer-sponsored coverage; reducing costs to people who buy insurance on the ACA exchanges; and repealing laws exempting corporations from negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Unlike “Medicare for All,” which remains controversial, these significant but incremental reforms are likely to garner support from a substantial percentage of voters…Recently, Biden has contrasted his approach with that of the president, who, he says, “has quit on the country” because he is unwilling or unable to understand that “he can’t deal with our economic crisis without serving, saving, and solving the public health crisis.”


Portland’s Inspiring ‘Wall of Moms’ Demonstration Sets a High Standard

In her July 25th New York Times article, “Mothers’ Power in U.S. Protests Echoes a Global Tradition,” Amanda Taub writes “History suggests that mothers’ power is most potent when they are able to wield their own respectability, and the protections it brings, as a political cudgel. But that is easiest for women who are already privileged: married, affluent, and members of the dominant racial or ethnic group…Mothers who are less privileged often struggle to claim that power, even though they are often the ones who most urgently need it.”

A week ago, the predominantly-white ‘Wall of Moms’ in Portland got a taste of the violence that women of color have long experienced in protest demonstrations. As Taub writes, “Ann Gregory, a lawyer and mother of two who joined the wall of moms in Portland on Sunday, said they had hoped to serve as a buffer between other demonstrators and law enforcement…“We realize that we’re a bunch of white women, and we do have privilege,” she said. “We were hoping to use that to protect the protesters…So on her first night at the protests, when federal officers fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades at the group of moms, “I couldn’t believe what was happening,” she said. “We weren’t being violent. We weren’t screaming expletives at them.”

The Wall of Moms demonstrations in Portland, which explicitly supports Black Lives Matter, should be welcomed by all Americans who care about racial justice. Taub writes, “However, when officers fire tear gas and projectiles at soccer moms holding sunflowers, as happened in Portland on Sunday night, even more observers — who may not previously have thought they could be at risk — see that as a fate that might befall anyone. And history suggests that could have profound political consequences.”

Countless thousands of women who are not mothers have taken part in nonviolent protest movements for racial justice, and they have made outstanding contributions in struggles against racism, going back to the early abolitionist movement. Indeed, every demographic group can play an important role in protesting against racially-motivated violence in law enforcement. But if they don’t increase their voter turnout on election day, their accomplishments will be limited.

There is something uniquely powerful in the optics of mothers organizing into a force for peaceful social change. There are ample precedents of women organized as mothers winning victories against oppressive forces, as Taub notes, including the “Las Madres de La Plaza de Mayo” (a.k.a. “Mothers of the Disappeared) protests in Buenos Aires, Argentina 1976-83 and the women who organized the ‘Black Sash’ in South Africa in the 1970s. Taub explains that “The Government has let Black Sash survive while closing down other anti-apartheid groups in part because white South African society has perched its women on pedestals,” The Times reported in 1988. “The police find it awkward to pack the paddy wagons with well-bred troublemakers who look like their mothers or sisters.”

There are legitimate concerns about the protests against police violence against African Americans turning violent and provoking political backlash. Violence and destruction of property are the media optics Trump seeks in his increasingly desperate divide-and-conquer strategy, and there has been too much of that already. But it’s likely that the demonstrations will continue for a while at least. Protest organizers in Portland and elsewhere must more effectively invoke disciplined nonviolence, as did MLK and his leadership team, to stop the violence and property destruction, regardless of who is perpetrating it.

Yet the spectacle of mothers being bullied by Trump’s mercenaries on national television, and in print and internet media will likely amplify his image as the most corrupt and divisive president in U.S. history. The Wall of Moms protest may yet have a positive effect on November 3rd voting.

Credit Portland’s Wall of Moms protest with taking a creative stand for racial justice. These women could have stayed home and watched Trump’s hired militia brutality on television. Instead, they traded complacency for a season of service on the front lines of nonviolent protest. May their courageous examples inspire concerned mothers in all states to join nonviolent protests for racial justice and equality — and turn out at the polls in record numbers.


Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. concldes his latest Washington Post column, “This Republican implosion has been a long time coming” with ths observation: “Having skipped their homework, having spread the coronavirus with a spring break fantasy that bars and restaurants and everything else could open wide, Republicans had the nerve on Wednesday to ask for an extension. Pass a “skinny” bill extending some unemployment insurance provisions and a rent moratorium (without, of course, helping renters pay the rent)…Sorry, but you reach a point when political parties, like wayward students, must be given an F. I hope Republicans will be ready to govern again someday. Right now, the party has earned itself only a multi-year expulsion…Even more dramatically, Biden has reversed Trump’s 2016 lead among voters age 65 and older. In 2016, Trump carried seniors 56 percent to 41 percent, according to the CCES data. But Biden, who carried seniors overwhelmingly in the Democratic primaries, leads Trump 50 percent to 45 percent among the oldest voters in the average of current polls.”

At The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman shares some data-based observations that should gladden Democratic hearts: “The 2016 election was defined by mass defections of remaining white, working-class members of Democrats’ coalition to Trump, particularly in heartland states. Much in the same way, the 2020 election is currently on track to see mass defections of the remaining white professional members of Republicans’ coalition to Biden — a trend disproportionately playing out in the suburbs where those voters tend to live…In an average of nine live-interview national surveys conducted since the start of June, Biden is clobbering Trump 58 percent to 37 percent among whites with college degrees, more than double Clinton’s 51 percent to 42 percent lead among that group in 2016 according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a nationally representative sample of 64,600 adults. Biden has also modestly cut Trump’s lead among whites without degrees to 55 percent to 37 percent, down from 59 percent to 35 percent in 2016.”

However, Wasserman adds, “If there’s a surprising weakness for Biden, it’s non-white voters – especially Latinos. He’s carrying African-Americans by 75 points over Trump in the latest polls, down from Clinton’s 80 point margin in 2016. But Trump has narrowed the gap among Latino voters to 30 points, down from his 40 point deficit four years ago. Latinos, along with 18-29 year old voters, sport some of the highest undecided rates in today’s polls…Perhaps fortunately for Biden, Latinos are underrepresented in the Electoral College battleground. In 2016, Latinos made up nine percent of the nation’s voters, but they were less than four percent of all voters in all but three of the ten closest states in 2016: Arizona (17 percent), Florida (17 percent) and Nevada (16 percent). That could limit the real benefit of any Trump improvement with Latinos since 2016…What’s more, Biden’s relative weakness with Latinos may be offset by the fact that Arizona and Florida also happen to boast the highest shares of seniors – a group with whom he is demonstrating surprising strength – of all the battleground states.”

Nathaniel Rakich explains why “Florida Could Go Blue in 2020” at FiveThirtyEight: “Florida has long been a slightly red state. Since 2004, it has consistently voted 3 or 4 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections. (Indeed, polls of Florida are currently1 0.9 points better for President Trump than national polls, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages.) But could what happened in 2018 — when Florida was so much redder than the nation that it was out of reach for Democrats, even in a wave election — happen again in 2020?…Most glaringly, Miami-Dade County — Florida’s most populated county — and Osceola County voted more than 8 points more Republican in the 2018 Senate race than in the 2016 presidential race. In addition, Nelson underperformed Clinton by 6 points in the much less populous Hendry County.” Despite the Republican edge with Cuban-American voters in south Florida, Rakich notes that “Puerto Rican Floridians (who make up 32 percent of Osceola County) strongly dislike Trump” and “According to Carlos Odio, the co-founder of data firm EquisLabs, a private poll recently gave Biden a 41-point lead among Puerto Rican voters in Florida, which would be close to the 46-point lead Clinton enjoyed in a Latino Decisions pollimmediately before the 2016 election.”

Rakich concludes, “In summary, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Biden will be able to hold onto (or build upon) Nelson’s gains in the blue counties in the map above, thanks to the current pro-Democratic national environment. And with the help of Hispanic voters, older voters, or both, it’s also not hard to imagine Biden returning to Clinton’s levels of support in some of the counties that drifted red in 2018. However, Trump is fighting to build upon his 2016 support among these voters too, and without them, Biden will have a hard time winning the state — as 2018 showed…The bottom line: The outlook is bright for Democrats in the Sunshine State. On average, polls of Florida show Biden leading Trump by a healthy 7.1 points.4 If that holds, it would be a blowout by Florida standards — the widest margin for a presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush won by 22 points in 1988. But, of course, if Florida does go blue again in 2020, it would put the state in a very familiar role: as a beach ball once again.”

In his New York Times column, “Trump Is Trying to Bend Reality to His Will: Can his aggressive version of ethnonationalist populism prevail in 2020? The answer is not obvious,” Thomas B. Edsall shares the results of a study that illuminates the relationship between social mobility and political behavior: “The difficulty of rising up the economic ladder is reflected in the decline in mobility in the United States. Research by Raj Chettyand colleagues has demonstrated that the percentage of children who make more than their parents has fallen from just over 90 percent for those born in 1940 to 50 percent for those born in 1984. The declines have been sharpest in the South and Midwest, as shown in the accompanying map — in many of the areas that provided key support to Donald Trump in 2016. The frustration over the lack of mobility is particularly acute for those without college degrees.”

Edsall cites another study, which sheds on social class and income, and writes “In a 2019 paper, “The College Wealth Divide: Education and Inequality in America, 1956-2016,” three German economists, Alina Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn and Moritz Schularick, all of the University of Bonn, determined that in the United States since the since the 1970s “the real income of non-college households stagnated, while the real income of college households has risen by around 50 percent.” The income data is, however, dwarfed by the findings on wealth: While non-college households were treading water in terms of wealth, college households have increased their net worth by a factor of three compared to 1971.”

Edsall adds that Noam Gidron and Peter A. Hall, political scientists at Hebrew University and Harvard write in “Populism as a Problem of Social Integration” that “support for radical parties is likely to be especially high among people who feel they have been socially marginalized, i.e. deprived of the roles and respect normally accorded members of mainstream society.” Edall notes that “subjective social status” — that is, “people’s own beliefs about where they stand relative to others within this status hierarchy” — has become a crucial factor in shaping political commitments. As Gidron and Hall note, “There is a consistent association between levels of subjective social status and voting for parties of the populist right and radical left. The more socially marginalized people feel, the more likely they are to gravitate toward the fringes of the political spectrum.” Edsall continues, “How many voters can be described as cross-pressured by conservative cultural views and liberal economic views?…A Voter Study Group analysis of the 2016 election by Lee Drutmanfound that just under 30 percent of voters feel this way. In addition, Drutman’s study provided support for Gidron’s view that these culturally conservative and economically liberal voters lean decisively to the right. Among the 24.3 percent of voters who fit this category and voted for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, 75.2 percent cast ballots for Trump and 24.8 percent for Clinton, a 3 to 1 split.”

Writing at Vox, Jen Kirby flags a new Democratic proposal, “A wave of evictions is coming. Democrats are proposing a lifeline,” which could help millions of moderate income voters, who are struggling to stay solvent during the pandemic. “The federal eviction moratorium expired last week, ending protections for approximately 12 million renters. A patchwork of state and local eviction moratoriums are elapsing, or will in the coming weeks. And expanded unemployment insurance guaranteed by the CARES Act will also run out by the end of the month, eliminating $600 a week to millions of unemployed workers who don’t have jobs to go back to right now…As these benefits dry up, the United States “is facing an eviction crisis of biblical proportions,” as Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, a nonprofit housing watchdog group, put it to Vox earlier this month. All this is happening in a country with more than 4.3 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, where one of the best strategies mitigate the coronavirus outbreak is to keep people home…To try to ease this crisis, Democrats in Congress have proposed new legislation to help Americans facing evictions. On Tuesday, Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are introducing the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act, which will provide funding so those at risk of eviction can access legal representation and any evictions will do limited damage to renters’ credit.”


Lessons for Dems from John Lewis

The title of Joshua Zeitz’s Politico, article provides an irresistible teaser for this political junkie: “How John Lewis Transformed American Politics: He took his radicalism inside the establishment, forever changing the Democratic Party and America itself.” That should be enough to grab the attention of any good Democrat. Among Zeitz’s observations:

In his youth, long before he became a civil rights icon—a phrase invoked in recent days by the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NPR and countless other news outlets—Lewis stood firmly in the American radical tradition. No less strident in his condemnation of American hypocrisy than Frederick Douglass or W.E.B DuBois before him, he shined a spotlight on systemic injustice. He deployed nonviolence with an implicit understanding that it would generate social and economic disturbance and compel civic and business leaders to bend to the movement’s demands. He was the scourge of liberals inside the Kennedy administration, conservatives on the editorial board of the National Review and centrists who counseled moderation and patience. In short, his role was to make Americans profoundly uncomfortable.

All Wikipedia lede true. But Lewis, unlike many self-described ‘radicals,’ was not content to rail against both political parties as ‘establishment pawns’ and call it a day. He understood that the most powerful role he could play in support of the causes he embraced was to run for congress and become a force on the inside for making the Democratic Party, as well as America, better. As Zeitz writes,

But radicalism is only one half of Lewis’ legacy. The other half is how Lewis, along with other movement activists who later held elective office—Andrew Young, Marion Barry, James Clyburn, Julian Bond, to name just a few—took his radicalism inside the establishment, forever changing the character of the Democratic Party and, with it, the political direction of America itself. They made civil rights an unnegotiable strain of the party’s DNA and built Black-led political organizations of a sort unknown since the heyday of Reconstruction.

One might well ask if electoral politics tamed the radicalism of movement leaders like Lewis. But the more important question is how those leaders transformed partisan politics and gave birth to a new Democratic Party positioned for long-term success in a diverse 21st-century America.

Zeitz goes on to share highlights of Lewis’s heroic story and eloquent messaging, which still resonates with blazing moral authority. He explains how the Civil Rights Movement continued to  transform the Democratic Party as a force for racial justice.

In 1977, a nationwide survey of Black mayors, city council members and state representatives found that 20 percent had been involved with community action programs in the prior decade, while many others worked or volunteered with a broader range of Great Society initiatives. Lewis’ trajectory—from civil rights leader to community organizer to the Atlanta City Council and then to Congress—was in many ways typical of this journey. In effect, the civil rights movement ported its radicalism into the Democratic Party and used politics as a base to build more permanent political power for Black Americans on school boards, in statehouses and city halls and in Congress…The civil rights movement impressed on Lewis and many of his compatriots the idea that politics is the most powerful vehicle of change. Once he adopted that belief, he never looked back.

None of this is to say that electoral politics is the only worthy career for left activists. On the contrary, most genuine radicals – those who sincerely seek fundamental social and economic reform, as opposed to venting pent-up political anger – can find unlimited opportunities to engage in transformational social change and community service projects outside the political arena.

Yet, Americans and the Democratic Party should be grateful that Civil Rights Movement veterans like John Lewis and Andrew Young understood that there can be no lasting social change without energetic political engagement. Thus many of the Movement’s veterans became candidates, campaign workers, staff members, voting rights and voter registration activsts, citizen lobbyists, petitioners, and always – voters.

Zeitz notes, “Today, as a rising generation of activists take to the streets—literally pursuing a “scorched earth policy” in some cases, by toppling the statues of Confederate heroes—Lewis and his generation offer a road map.” Of course Lewis was not into vigilante destruction of public property. Like other well-trained nonviolent activists, he understood that the most efective way to change such public monuments was through the legislative process – the city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and other legislative decision-makers, so the public could be educated and backlash avoided.

Zeitz concludes, “Before he was widely cherished as the elder statesman of a popular movement, Lewis helped effect change in a nation resistant to upending its long-standing racial order, and then brought his radical brand of politics into the political system itself.” May his example inspire generations of young activists to do likewise.


Political Strategy Notes

How risky is the Biden campaign’s decision to skip campaign rallies? Not very, according to Alan I. Abramowitz, who writes in “Do Campaign Visits Pay Off? Evidence from the 2016 Presidential Election” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In order to estimate the impact that campaign visits had on the election results, I conducted a regression analysis of the results in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. I used the Democratic vote margin as the dependent variable and the relative number of campaign visits to each state along with the Democratic vote margin in the 2012 presidential election as independent variables…the relative number of campaign trips to a state by Trump and Clinton had no effect on the results…With infection levels rising in many states and several Trump campaign staffers having tested positive for COVID-19, it is not clear how many more live rallies the Trump campaign will be able to conduct between now and Election Day. The Biden campaign currently has no plans to hold live campaign rallies. However, the findings reported in this article indicate that whether either campaign holds live rallies and whether one holds more rallies than the other will probably have little or no impact on the election results at the state level. Campaign events may have other benefits such as energizing supporters and stimulating donations, but in 2016 they did not appear to have any effect on how well candidates did in the states in which they were held.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains “Why progressives should welcome anti-Trump Republicans,” and observes “if you believe (as I certainly do) that defeating President Trump is the prerequisite for anything good happening again in American politics, you should welcome everyone willing to help get the job done. And in light of Trump’s threats to challenge the results if he loses, the health of our democracy may depend on Biden’s winning by a landslide that would leave not a smidgen of doubt about what the voters were saying. This is an all-hands-on-deck proposition…But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: If the race tightens, the Republican converts could be essential to getting Biden over the line…Finally, for a progressive program to have any chance in Congress, the Democrats will have to take over the Senate. The bigger Biden’s margin, the better the chances of this happening…That Trump and Trumpism create a national emergency is reason enough to pitch a very big tent. But this election could also open the way for a durable shift in the nation’s dominant public philosophy toward social decency and greater equality. A transformation of that sort requires the witness of converts.”

In her Fox News opinion article, “To win presidency and majorities in Congress, Democrats should follow this battle plan,” Donna Brazile writes: “So, putting aside the purported current state of this election campaign, here is what Democrats need to do to win the White House, retake control of the Senate, and expand their majority in the House…The four most important letters in politics are GOTV — Get Out the Vote! I know that sounds obvious. But in the middle of a deadly pandemic, getting out the vote in November will be both incredibly challenging and more important than ever before…Democratic candidates need to make this election a referendum on Donald Trump’s lack of character, utter absence of empathy, unethical use of the presidency to boost his business earnings and attack his enemies, and total lack of qualifications to be our nation’s leader…In focusing on the issues that matter to Americans, Democrats must convince voters across the political spectrum that, unlike Trump, we can be trusted. We care about people over profits. And we can unify our country after four of the most divisive years in our country’s history…Democrats must highlight the extreme right-wing trajectory of the federal bench under Trump, and tell the American people how this will immediately change on the day Biden becomes president and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., becomes Senate majority leader…”

Brazile adds, “In distinguishing our candidates from Trump, Democrats must be laser-focused on the issues, and on character and unity. We cannot respond to every inane Trump tweet, every shameless attack, and every contrived dispute. Instead, we must seize specific opportunities to rebut Trump’s angry and divisive approach to politics, by putting forward Democrats’ positive and bipartisan approach to governing…Democratic candidates must also show how the Republican Party has been co-opted by Trump. We must tell the American people how we will focus on unifying our country and ending the chaos that Trump brought to Washington. And we must highlight how Republicans have been complicit in this chaos, when they prioritize loyalty to their party and to Trump over the American people…So with 100 days until Election Day 2020, this is my message — and my warning — to Democratic candidates and our potential supporters: Get out the vote!  And focus on character, unity, and the issues that are most important to the American people, and to the voters in your individual states and congressional districts.”

Writing in Newsweek, Martin Luther King III shared the following thoughts on Rep. John Lews’s legacy and challenge to progressives: “Lewis understood that the unobstructed right to vote for all citizens, regardless of their race, religion or gender, is the cornerstone of every great democracy. A recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, Lewis worked tirelessly to end voter suppression practices that are still being deployed. The Voting Rights Alliance lists 61 forms of voter suppression. These include: reducing the number of polling places in communities of color, intimidating voters on Election Day, “caging” and purging of registration rolls in selected ZIP codes, discriminatory voter identification requirements, draconian felon disenfranchisement laws, faulty voting machines in minority precincts, manipulation of legal residency requirements for college students, shrinking the window for early voting in key states and excessive restrictions on voting by mail, to name just a few…The daunting challenges Americans face in 2020, including police violence and its cascading repercussions in many American communities, deepening polarization and the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the enormous consequences of our elections and the leaders we chose to guide us through crises. My fervent hope that the celebration of Lewis’ life and legacy will energize millions of Americans to vote and elect leaders who will honor his memory by passing laws to make it easier, not harder, to vote…We cannot rest until exercising the right to vote is simple and easy for all Americans. Restoring the Voting Rights Act to its full strength is one of the best ways we can honor the life and legacy of Lewis.”

At abcnews.go.com, Alisa Wiersema reports that “available data seems to indicate that Democrats are leaning into mail voting in greater numbers than Republicans…In the key battleground of Florida and Ohio, Democrats outpaced Republicans in absentee ballot requests during primary contests. North Carolina, another state that is crucial for the presidential electoral count, is slated to be among the first to mail general election ballots this fall. There, Democrats’ requests for absentee ballots currently top Republicans by nearly five times…As of Wednesday, in Florida, 210,593 Democrats had already cast mail ballots for the state’s August primary election, compared to 175,458 Republicans according to data provided by the Florida Division of Elections. Last week, Florida Democrats announced more than one million Democrats had enrolled or renewed their vote by mail enrollment in the time since the March presidential preference primary. Currently, Sunshine State Democrats tout an enrollment advantage of more than 400,000 voters over Republicans.”

Wiersema notes further, “A similar scenario appears to be unfolding in the battleground state of North Carolina, where according to data provided by the state’s Board of Elections, as of Thursday, 44,555 Democrats so far had requested absentee ballots for the November general election. At the same time, just 8,623 Republicans had done the same…A week out from the contest, [Republican Secretary of State Frank] LaRose announced that 1,667,883 Ohioans had requested a vote-by-mail ballot. Of the data available at the time, 866,104 of them were Democrats and 705,478 were Republicans. At that point, Democrats had also cast 88,000 more ballots than Republicans.As of July 17, 534,610 Democrats in Kentucky — where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for reelection — had requested absentee ballot applications, compared with 318,729 Republicans. In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, the last New England Republican in either chamber of Congress, is facing her toughest reelection battle yet. There, McDonald’s data analysis indicated that 132,536 Democrats requested mail ballots for the June 14 primary, compared with 38,516 Republicans.”

Maeve Reston reports that “From Donald Trump to Ted Yoho, Republicans are losing with women voters” at CNN Politics: “The President was trailing Vice President Joe Biden by 25 points among women (35% to Biden’s 60%) in the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll and by 28 points in the mid-July Quinnipiac poll that showed Biden leading Trump among female voters 59% to 31%…Those numbers should be particularly alarming to the Trump campaign given that Democrats’ best result among women in a national presidential exit poll was 56% to 43% in 2008, the year that Barack Obama vanquished Arizona Sen. John McCain. Among White women in the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, 50% backed Biden, 46% Trump…CNN’s Director of Polling and Election Analytics Jennifer Agiesta notes that Democrats have never won a majority of White women according to exit polls dating back to 1972. (Former President Bill Clinton won White women by 48% to 43% in 1996, but the party has never gotten to the 50% threshold or above). In 2016, Trump carried White women 52% to 43% over Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. Only 4% of Black women voted for Trump, and only 25% of Latinas supported him…In a fresh round of CNN polling released Sunday, Biden’s advantage in the swing states of Michigan, Arizona, and Florida was largely driven by his edge among women, according to Agiesta.”

Also at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Thurgood Marshall, J. and Steven Okun warn “Given a recent survey finding that Joe Biden holds a 34-point advantage over Donald Trump with 18-29 year olds, if the 2020 presidential race is just as close in key states as the one in 2016, fewer students voting could keep the former vice president from winning a race he otherwise would have…In 2016, over 50 colleges had more students than the presidential margins in their states…Certainly, fewer college students voting could create the potential for dozens of down-ballot races to be influenced…Not enough resources are being allocated to find ways to ensure students are registered to vote, and then follow through on voting. There is a danger that we might not even reach the previous 48% threshold of college students who voted in 2016…When the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University asked youth if they could register to vote online in their state, one-third said they did not know, and one-quarter who said yes were incorrect. In addition, only 24% reported having voted by mail before.”


Political Strategy Notes

“In deploying federal forces,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic, “Trump appears to be trying to provoke clashes with protesters, which he can use to convince white suburban voters that he’s the last line of defense between them and the chaos allegedly incubating in cities, Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor, told me. Referring to the street battle between construction workers and anti-war protesters in Manhattan in 1970, Emanuel said, “Trump is trying to create his own hard-hat riot, and they are wearing [law-enforcement] helmets.”…The political risk for Republicans in that strategy, many political observers told me, is not only that it could provoke more opposition from residents in the city centers, but that it could also accelerate the shift toward Democrats in the large, well-educated, and more and more diverse inner suburbs around the major cities. Over time, the “larger denser suburbs” have become “like cities and throw in with the cities”—they don’t identify as much with the less-populated areas, says Robert Lang, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and a co-author of the upcoming book Blue Metros, Red States.”

“The politics of all these proliferating battles between Republican officials and Democratic cities may unfold at two levels,” Brownstein continues. “With Trump monumentally unpopular in urban centers but still strong in rural places, the most immediate political question is how suburban voters will respond…since the 1990s, more suburbanites have concluded that their political views align more with the diverse, cosmopolitan cities nearby than with the more culturally conservative, preponderantly white, and Christian smaller places far from the urban core. Under Trump that process has intensified: He’s precipitated a significant shift toward the Democrats in white-collar suburbs that fueled the party’s sweeping gains in the House in 2018. Though Republicans once could count on big margins as soon as they crossed a city’s boundaries, Lang notes, now, in most places, “the line for Republicans has moved outward further” in the metro, he says…Trump’s alarms about “angry mobs” and “violent mayhem” in Democratic cities might allow him to recapture some Republican-leaning white suburbanites and energize his rural and small-town support, analysts in both parties told me. But as I’ve written before, his belligerent tone simultaneously risks hardening the opposition he’s facing from the many suburban voters who feel that he’s exposing them to more danger—both in his response to the policing protests and his unrelenting push to reopen the economy despite the coronavirus’s resurgence. In last week’s national Quinnipiac University poll, just over seven in 10 white voters holding at least a four-year college degree disapproved of Trump’s handling of both race relations and the outbreak.”

At The New York Times, columnist Thomas B. Edsall takes a look at a range of studies of the determinates of liberal and conservative views, and his findings may help explain Trump’s messaging success in 2016. As Edsall writes “In a February 2019 paper, “Liberals lecture, conservatives communicate: Analyzing complexity and ideology in 381,609 political speeches,” four political scientists, Martijn Schoonvelde, Anna Brosius, Gijs Schumacher and Bert N. Bakker, argue that “speakers from culturally liberal parties use more complex language than speakers from culturally conservative parties” and that this variance in linguistic complexity is “rooted in personality differences among conservative and liberal politicians. The former prefer short, unambiguous statements, and the latter prefer longer compound sentences, expressing multiple points of view.”…The authors cite studies suggesting that this linguistic divide is persistent: “The Readability and Simplicity of Donald Trump’s Language,” published in The Political Studies Review and “Research on linguistic habits of American and British politicians shows that conservative politicians make less complex statements than liberal politicians.”

Edsall writes, further, “One study showed that “the speeches of liberal US presidents score higher on integrative complexity than those of conservatives, as measured by the presence of “words involved in differentiation (exclusive words, tentative words, negations) as well as integration of different perspectives (conjunctions).”…Another found that “conservative political bloggers use less complex language than their liberal counterparts and conservative citizens use language that scores lower on integrative complexity than liberal citizens.”…Separate studies of the language used by presidents — both “The Readability and Simplicity of Donald Trump’s Language,” and an analysis of the language used by the last 15 presidents on the blog Factbase — concluded that President Trump speaks at the lowest level of all those studied, as measured on the on the Flesch-Kincaid index. As Factbase put it: “By any metric to measure vocabulary, using more than a half dozen tests with different methodologies, Donald Trump has the most basic, most simplistically constructed, least diverse vocabulary of any president in the last 90 years.”

In addition, Edsall notes that “Some scholars argue that a focus on ideological conflict masks the most salient divisions in the era of Donald Trump: authoritarians versus non-authoritarians…Karen Stenner, the author of “The Authoritarian Dynamic,” emailed me on this point to say that “It’s really critical to help people understand the difference between conservatives and authoritarians. Conservatives are by nature opposed to change and novelty, whereas authoritarians are averse to diversity and complexity. It’s a subtle but absolutely critical distinction…“What we’re facing,” she continued, “is an authoritarian revolution — not a conservative revolution, the term is inherently contradictory — which in the U.S. has been creeping up since the 1960s…Authoritarianism, Stenner continued, is “clearly distinct from what I call “laissez faire conservatism.” In fact, in cross-national research I consistently find that these two dimensions are actually negatively related. If anything, authoritarians tend to be wary of free markets and more supportive of government intervention and redistribution, perhaps even schemes of equalization and progressive taxation.””

Trump’s messaging has taken the politics of distraction to a new low, piling one outrage on top of another so quickly that the news media has trouble keeping focused on his unprecedented corruption. “Trump has been involved in so many scandals and says so many reprehensible things,” writes E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his Washington Post column, “that our country has developed a kind of herd immunity to the outrage that just one of his actions would have called forth in any previous administration. We have allowed Trump to fend off one scandal with . . . another scandal…The key is seeing that Trump’s entirely selfish approach to the presidency has a measurable and material impact on the lives of citizens and on the policies he pursues — to the extent that he is interested in policy at all. He cares above all about his own finances, his ego, his ratings and escaping accountability. Everything else falls by the wayside …Trump’s opponents cannot assume, as they did in 2016, that if they drive home just how awful Trump is personally, voters will recoil in horror. This year, it is essential to make the case that Trump’s corruption means that most of the time he pays no attention to governing. And when he does, he governs in a way that subordinates the public interest to his own interests — and the interests of those who keep him in power.”

The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Indexmeasures how much more Democratic or Republican a district performs compared to the national average.” For example, AL-1 has a p.v.i. rating of R+15, which means that this congressional district voted an average of 15 points more for Republican presidential candidates than the national average in the last two presidential elections.  To find out your congressional district’s p.v.i., click here.

In his article, “Primary voting was a disaster. The general election doesn’t have to be that way,” David Litt, former speechwriter for President Barack Obama and author of “Democracy In One Book Or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think,” writes: “But it’s not too late to protect the integrity of the 2020 election while making it safe for every eligible American to vote. There are simple steps states and counties can take that would dramatically reduce the possibility of disaster at the ballot box or mailbox this year…First, states must set clear ground rules as early as possible. Because the impacts of coronavirus weren’t really felt in America until March, many officials had little time to make decisions about how to run the primary election process, leading to fear and confusion among the electorate. But when it comes to the general election, we have more time to prepare…Who automatically gets sent an absentee ballot? How many polling places remain open? When is the deadline for ballots to be sent or received? With the coronavirus still raging across the country, these kinds of questions must be decided decisively and quickly enough that any legal challenges to new rules can work their way through the courts.”

Litt adds, “Second, when adapting to the virus, states should err on the side of making it easier, not harder, to vote. Contrary to President Donald Trump’s evidence-free tweets, there’s no indication that mail-in voting will lead to large-scale election fraud. Five states already conducted their elections entirely by mail before the pandemic hit, and the President himself voted by mail in 2018. But there is clear evidence that confusion over mail-in balloting, coupled with overly strict rules about which ballots do and do not count, can discourage voting and invalidate eligible citizens’ ballots…To prevent this, states should mail all registered voters not only an absentee ballot, but clear instructions for how to use it. Upon receiving those ballots, states should apply the election equivalent of “innocent until proven guilty.” Rather than assume ballots with small errors are fraudulent and shouldn’t be counted, they should assume they’re valid and should be counted. In practice, this means making an aggressive effort to contact voters whose ballots are in danger of being thrown out for minor errors and giving them ample time to correct any irregularities…By acting quickly and taking commonsense, non-partisan steps, we can preserve the most important element of our country’s promise: that we, the people, can shape our destiny together.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystall Ball, Louis Jacobson takes a look at the longer horizon of elections and sketches “The Future Shape of the Senate.” As Jacobsen writes, “The Constitution divides the Senate into three “classes” that face the voters on six-year cycles. Under today’s political dynamics, the class that faced the voters in 2018 was favorable to the Republicans, while the class that faces the voters in 2020 is favorable to the Democrats…What about the class that faces the voters in 2022? Our analysis shows that this class is also favorable to the Democrats…If the Democrats manage to seize the Senate majority in 2020, the relatively pro-Democratic map in 2022 could insulate the party somewhat if Joe Biden is elected president and a midterm backlash benefiting the GOP emerges…The Democrats will need to run up the score in the Senate in both 2020 and 2022 if they are going to keep the majority past the 2024 elections, when the Republicans benefit from an extremely favorable map for their party.”

In his Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes about a new opportunity for bipartisan legislation that can help working people. “Last week, a group of socially conservative luminaries — are they the last surviving “compassionate conservatives”? — strongly endorsed further aid for some of the most economically vulnerable people in our country…In a letter organized by W. Bradford Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the signers called for an expansion of the earned-income tax credit, which, as they noted, “rewards work,” and a $2,000 payment this fall under the Child Tax Credit program…Progressives rightly take conservatives to task for preaching about “family values” without offering any concrete help for parents desperate to build better lives for their children. Here, happily, is one occasion when words and deeds intersect…And the Child Tax Credit is the ideal policy for bringing together the left and the kinder-hearted right. Expanding the credit has been a major cause of a group of Democrats that includes Sens. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), as well as Reps. Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Richard E. Neal (Mass.) — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Versions of it have also won endorsement from Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Josh Hawley (Mo.).”

In her article, “Nearly 6 million donors contributed record $710 million through ActBlue in three months, group says,” Fredrecka Schouten notes at CNN politics that “In all five Senate contests considered toss-ups by the Cook Political Report — races in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Maine and Montana — Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbent senators during the April-to-June fundraising quarter, according to candidate filings with the Federal Election Commission …Democrats need a net gain of just four seats to seize the chamber from Republicans or three if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency and his vice president breaks ties in a 50-50 Senate. Republicans have sought to catch up to Democrats’ online advantage…WinRed, launched last year as a conservative counterweight to ActBlue, raised more than $275 million for Republican candidates in the second quarter, the group previously announced. That set a record for the GOP platform.”

At Vox, Ezra Klein reports, “Last week, Joe Biden held a 45-minute call with a small group of reporters, including myself. The main subject of the conversation was Biden’s new plan, Build Back Better: a new, post-Covid framework for his proposals to build clean energy infrastructure, revitalize American manufacturing, make care work pay for those who do it and affordable for those who need it, and address racial inequalities. My question was simple. Democrats don’t have a path to 60 seats in the Senate. So how will Biden keep his agenda from dying at the hands of the filibuster? Would he support filibuster reform, or elimination? Biden’s reply was his campaign in miniature, reflecting both the instincts that have made him successful and the caution that has frustrated many on the left…“I think it’s going to depend on how obstreperous they” — meaning Republicans — “become, and if they become that way,” he replied. “I have not supported the elimination of the filibuster because it has been used as often to protect rights I care about as the other way around. But you’re going to have to take a look at it.”…That answer, which reflected a genuine shift in Biden’s rhetoric on the issue, made some headlines. But it wasn’t the end of Biden’s argument. “I’ll say something outrageous,” he continued. “I think I have a pretty good record of pulling together Democrats and Republicans.” He went on to say many Senate Republicans will feel “a bit liberated” by Trump’s defeat and may be ready to work with Democrats on issues like infrastructure and racial inequality.”

Klein also observes, “After the 2016 election, panicked, wounded Democrats settled on a diagnosis. Trump, for all his mania, bigotry, and chaos, had given angry Americans something to vote for. To stop him, Democrats would need to match force with counter-force, polarization with mobilization. They would need to show as much anger, as much populism, as much wrecking ball energy as he did…Biden is running — and, for now, winning — by defying that diagnosis. He is executing a careful, quiet campaign focused less on thrilling his partisans than denying Trump the boogeyman he needs to reenergize his base. It’s a campaign that frustrates liberal activists and pundits because it repeatedly, routinely denies them the excitement and collisions that structure modern politics. It’s also, for that reason, a campaign that is frustrating Trump and Fox News, which is why they keep trying to run against Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar instead.”

Klein adds, “What’s striking is how well it appears to be working. As I write this, Biden is ahead by more than 9 points in the FiveThirtyEight national polling average. The Economist’s election forecasting model gives him a 92 percent likelihood of winning the Electoral College. He leads in polling averages of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and North Carolina. He’s neck-and-neck with Trump in Texas. Texas! As the New York Times’s Nate Cohn notes, even if polls prove as off in 2020 as they did in 2016, these numbers still predict a large Biden victory…The key to Biden’s success is simple: He’s slicing into Trump’s coalition, pulling back the older, whiter voters Democrats lost in 2016. The Biden campaign’s insight is that mobilization is often the flip side of polarization: When party activists are sharply divided by ideology and demography, what excites your side will be the very thing that unnerves the other side. Studies of House elections show this dynamic in action: Ideologically extreme candidates perform worse than moderates because they drive up turnout on the other side.”

Klein says, further, “Biden’s theory of wavering Trump voters is the same as his theory of wavering Republican senators: He thinks they want to vote with him but need help getting over their political hang-ups about voting for a Democrat. And so he is trying to give them that help. He praises the old Republican Party, refuses to pick a side in American politics’ hottest fights. Biden has resisted calls to abolish private insurance, ban fracking, decriminalize immigration, and defund the police. It’s cost him enthusiasm on the left, but it has denied Trump the clear foil he needs. That’s left Trump confused, pathetically insisting Biden holds positions Biden doesn’t hold and getting fact-checked live on Fox…Biden is treating Trump voters not as a monolith but as a coalition — a coalition that can be broken.All this has given Biden the opportunity to run the campaign he’s most comfortable with, and most suited to run. A campaign that’s more about giving people who don’t agree with him on everything permission to vote for him, rather than a campaign about mobilizing his own base. It might not work in every year, against every opponent, but it’s working this year, against this one.”


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats now have a nominee to take away Republican Senator John Cornyn’s seat in November. As Cameron Peters reports in “Air Force veteran MJ Hegar wins the Texas Democratic Senate primary” at Vox. “Air Force veteran Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar will officially face Sen. John Cornyn in November after winning out against state Sen. Royce West in Texas’s Democratic primary runoff on Tuesday…Hegar secured the endorsement not just from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee but also from major national groups including EMILY’s List, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She has long been the anointed candidate to take on Cornyn, and she was the top vote-getter in Texas’s Super Tuesday primary in March…On Tuesday, she again defeated West, a progressive fixture of Democratic politics in Texas. In the lead-up to the runoff, Hegar and her allies spent heavily to make sure they put the race away: According to the Texas Tribune, she, along with the DSCC and EMILY’s List, poured at least $2 million into ads in the Houston area over the last week of the race, outspending West 85 to 1…But Cornyn looks to be somewhat more popular in the state than his colleague in the Senate, never mind the president, and he’s running anywhere from 8 to 13 points ahead of Hegar in recent polling, so she’ll have her work cut out for her.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains former Vice President Biden’s messaging strategy: “Yes, his program is more broadly progressive than Barack Obama’s. Biden would take on climate change more aggressively, use government more forcefully to jump-start a sagging economy, and go well beyond the Affordable Care Act in guaranteeing all Americans health coverage…But we are living in a very different time: The economy is in even greater turmoil than it was in 2009, and inequalities of all kinds are more glaring. And Biden is betting that the divisiveness of the Trump era and the widespread suffering from the novel coronavirus and its economic consequences have rekindled a national desire to think of ourselves as an “us” and a “we.”…If Trump wants to make the election about socialism vs. capitalism, Biden wants to make it a very American choice between community and a radical kind of individualism that leaves many people stranded. Biden’s model is not Karl Marx but Franklin D. Roosevelt…Biden seems to have decided that he wants not only to beat Trump but also to lay the groundwork for governing. He is trying to assemble an agenda acceptable to the various wings of his own party and to argue for it by transcending the stale and hackneyed dividing lines that drive Trump’s approach to politics.”

What are the strategic implications of the shake-up in Trump’s re-election campaign. At CNN Politics, Caroline Kelly explains: “Trump’s decision to name Stepien deputy campaign manager in May was viewed by many around the campaign as an effort by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to ensure a successor loyal to him in the event Parscale would need to be pushed out…After a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Stepien on Tuesday, Kushner informed Parscale of the decision to demote him, according to a source familiar with the conversation.” Could it be that Brad Parscale’s data-driven approach to targeting unmotivated, but persuadable voters is now seen as unworkable for Trump’s rapidly-tanking campaign? If so, then it seems a good bet that Stepien’s ascendancy signals a stronger emphasis on trying to divide Biden’s white working-class supporters with increasingly desperate appeals to their fears about race and immigration.

“Polls consistently show that Trump’s supporters are more excited to vote for him than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters are to vote for him,” Michael Tesler writes at FiveThirtyEight. “For example, half of Trump supporters in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll said they were “very excited” about their candidate, compared to just 27 percent of Biden backers. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale even described their enthusiasm advantage over Biden as “the most important factor in the campaign…But the significance of this “enthusiasm gap” is exaggerated. Enthusiastic votes count just as much as unenthusiastic ones, meaning an enthusiasm gap would only really matter in a close election. And right now, it isn’t a close election: Biden leads Trump in national polls by nearly 9 points. No enthusiasm advantage — no matter how big — could possibly make up for that kind of a gap.”

“To be sure,” Tesler adds, “that negative enthusiasm gap will almost certainly narrow as Trump ratchets up his attacks on Biden. But it’s unlikely Biden will engender the same level of hatred that Clinton did. Even though she’s spent four years out of the political limelight, Republicans are still more hostile to Clinton than Biden. A Fox News poll from last month found that 76 percent had a “strongly unfavorable” opinion of Clinton, compared to 64 percent of Republicans who held the same opinion of Biden…As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer astutely put it, “The notion of a Biden presidency simply does not provoke the visceral rage that Clinton and Obama did — not in Trump, and not in his supporters.” So long as Biden’s campaign does not evoke such negativity, Trump will likely be the one on the short end of the 2020 enthusiasm gap.”

From “The Plot Against America: The GOP’s Plan to Suppress the Vote and Sabotage the Election: Blocking ballots, intimidating voters, spreading misinformation — undermining democracy is at the heart of Trump’s 2020 campaign” by Andy Kroll at Rolling Stone: “In recent months, a central theme of his re-election strategy has come into clear, unmistakable focus: Trump and his Republican enablers are putting voter suppression front and center — fear-mongering about voting by mail, escalating their Election Day poll watching and so-called ballot-security operations, and blocking funding to prepare the country for a pandemic-era election. “The president views vote-by-mail as a threat to his election,” a lawyer for the Trump campaign recently told 60 Minutes. Attorney General William Barr told Fox News that vote-by-mail “absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud.”

Kroll continues: “In February, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee announced that they would spend $10 million on voting-related lawsuits in 2020 — a figure that has since doubled to $20 million. The RNC has so far filed lawsuits in more than a dozen states, including the battlegrounds of Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. These suits are a mix of offense and defense: Some attempt to block litigation brought by Democratic groups to expand mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Others seek to invalidate state-level policies by saying that expanding access to mail-in ballots invites fraud. But the uniting theme of the RNC’s suits, says Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine law professor and author of Election Meltdown, is simple: “Casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election. Raising spurious fraud claims.”

Further, Kroll adds, “The funders of the RNC’s 2020 legal war chest are a who’s who of plutocrats and industry titans for whom a $100,000 check to the president is pocket change. According to an analysis of election records by Rolling Stone, these funders include L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean, private-equity magnate Stephen Schwarzman, Johnson & Johnson heir Ambassador Woody Johnson, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), the Ricketts family that founded TD Ameritrade, coal barons Joe Craft and Robert Murray, billionaire financiers John Paulson and John W. Childs, financial executive Charles Schwab, Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan, and Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter. “It’s no surprise to see that the list of wealthy people bankrolling the RNC’s attack on voting rights includes some of the biggest benefactors of the Trump administration’s economic policy,” says Morris Pearl, chair of Patriotic Millionaires. “They don’t want to protect our elections — they want to protect their positions of privilege.”

Kroll notes a “a 1982 consent decree between the Democratic and Republican parties. Even though the RNC refused to admit wrong-doing in New Jersey, the group agreed to stop harassing and intimidating voters of color, including by deputizing off-duty law-enforcement officers and equipping those officers with guns or badges. Over the next three decades, Democrats marshaled enough evidence of ongoing Republican voter suppression to maintain the consent decree until 2018, when a federal judge lifted the order…The 2020 presidential election will be the first in nearly 40 years when the RNC isn’t bound by the terms of the 1982 decree. Clark, the Trump campaign lawyer, told the group of Republicans at the private meeting last November that the end of the consent decree was “a huge, huge, huge, huge deal,” freeing the RNC to directly coordinate with campaigns and political committees on so-called Election Day operations. The RNC is sending millions of dollars to state Republican parties to vastly expand these measures, which include recruiting 50,000 poll observers to deploy in key precincts. Josh Helton, a lawyer who has advised the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has described Philadelphia, where black people make up 41 percent of the population, as “probably the epicenter for voter fraud in this country” and a likely target for the GOP’s 2020 poll-watching efforts.”


Political Strategy Notes

“The number one issue to voters this year is the pandemic,” Bill Schneider writes in “There’s a Big Blue Wave Coming” at The Hill. “Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told the Washington Post, “Trump is increasingly defined in voters’ minds by his failing response to the coronavirus crisis, and virtually every action and position he’s taken have been wildly out of sync with where the public is at on what should be done.” The president has said he thinks the virus will “just disappear.” He has consistently downplayed the threat posed by the coronavirus and is urging Americans to learn to live with it. That means learning to live with more than 3 million Americans infected and over 134,000 dead — more than twice as many as the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war…Biden’s response? “Make no mistake. We are still in a deep, deep jobs hole because Donald Trump has so badly bungled the response to the coronavirus and now has basically given up responding at all.”

Texas is a swing state in 2020, new polls reveal,” according to poll analyst Harry Enten, writing at CNN Politics: “New CBS News/YouGov polls show President Donald Trump is in trouble in three states he won in 2016. He’s tied with former Vice President Joe Biden in Arizona (46% to 46%), a state he won by four points in 2016. Trump’s down 48% to 42% in Florida, a state he took by a point in 2016…But it’s the third state, Texas, where the eye popping result comes from. It’s Trump 46% to Biden’s 45%, a result well within any margin of error…The 2020 campaign could be the first time Democrats captured the Lone Star State in a presidential election since 1976…The CBS News/YouGov poll is not an outlier over the last month. There have been eight polls released publicly since the beginning of June. The result is that Biden and Trump are basically tied, with Biden up by a mere 0.3 points in Texas…Importantly, and unlike in other states, the polls in Texas have not overestimated Democrats over the last few cycles. If anything Democrats actually slightly outperformed their final polls in the 2016 presidential race and 2018 Senate races.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why Trump’s “cancel culture” branding strategy is unlikely to have much effect in the 2020 elections: “In 2016, with the economy stable and life in a relatively “normal” place, it was easy to distract and engage voters with this stuff. Today, however, when 87 percent of Americans (according to a recent Pew poll) say they are disappointed in the direction of the country, it’s hard to scare them into thinking that things will worsen if they vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in the fall. And, Biden isn’t making himself an easy target either. He was quick to denounce the ‘defund police’ movement. He also came out in defense of preserving and protecting national monuments dedicated to founding leaders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.”

Perry Bacon, Jr. argues at FiveThirty Eight that “it isn’t easy or necessarily guaranteed that the Republicans will overwhelmingly win the white vote overall or the white non-college vote specifically — even in an election that’s centered on race. The 2017-2018 period was full of racialized political debate, most notably on immigration policy, but the exit polls suggest Democrats lost white voters without a college degree by 24 percentage points in 2018, compared to 37 points in 2016. So far in 2020, polls show Biden losing white voters without a degree by a margin closer to 20 points…Meanwhile, Biden might carry white voters with a college degree by a large margin, in part because those voters have been turned off by Trump’s approach to racial issues. Indeed, white voters with a college degree or postgraduate education have been trending Democratic for years, and the GOP approach to race and ethnicity is likely a factor.”

Writing at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein shares some revealing observations about the changes that will charactrize the 2020 electorate, including, “From the 2016 GOP primaries forward, white voters without a college education have provided Trump’s largest group of loyalists. In the 1968 presidential election, that group comprised nearly 80 percent of all voters, according to post-election surveys by both the Census Bureau and the University of Michigan’s American National Election Studies. White Americans holding at least a four-year college degree represented about 15 percent of voters, with nonwhite Americans, almost all of them Black, comprising the remainder, at just under 10 percent. (The Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz analyzed the ANES data for me.)..That electorate is unrecognizable now. The nonpartisan States of Change project has forecast that non-college-educated white Americans will likely constitute 42 percent of voters in November, slightly more than half their share in 1968. States of Change anticipates that both college-educated white voters and voters of color will represent about 30 percent of voters in 2020. For the former group, that’s about twice their share in 1968; for the latter, that’s somewhere between a three- and fourfold increase.”

From Robert Reich’s share-worthy, blistering indictment, “Trump and McConnell are the twin tribunes of America’s ruin – vote them out: Under leaders as callous as these, the ravages of Covid-19, economic disaster and systemic racism can only get worse” by Robert Reich at The Guardian: “Donald Trump has not only refused to contain Covid-19 but is actively pushing Americans into harm’s way, demanding the nation “reopen” while cases and deaths continue to rise. Meanwhile, he’s siphoning federal money intended to dampen the economic crisis into the pockets of his cronies and family. And he is deliberately stoking racial tensions to energize his “base” for the upcoming election…As if this weren’t enough, Trump continues to attack the rule of law, on which a democracy depends in order to deal with these and all other challenges…But he could not accomplish these abhorrent feats alone. Senate Republicans are either cheering him on or maintaining a shameful silence. Trump’s biggest enabler is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.”

Reich continues, “McConnell’s take on Trump’s multiple attacks on the rule of law, including Friday’s commutation of former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone’s prison sentence? Utter silence…But McConnell has been a vocal opponent of the Heroes Act – passed by the House in early May to help Americans survive the pandemic and fortify the upcoming election – calling it a “liberal wishlist”. In fact, it’s a necessary list…McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans don’t want to extend the bill’s extra-$600-a-week unemployment benefits, enacted in March but due to expire on 31 July. They argue the benefits are higher than what low-income workers are likely to earn on the job, so the money is a disincentive to work…Baloney. Few jobs are available to low-income workers, and most are in so-called “essential” work rife with Covid-19. Besides, the US economy can’t be revived unless people have extra money in their pockets to buy goods and services. Even before the pandemic, nearly 80% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. Now many are desperate, as revealed by lengthening food lines and growing delinquencies in rent payments.”

Reich, author of The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, notes further, “Yet McConnell and his ilk are happy to give away trillions of dollars in bailouts to Wall Street bankers and corporate executives, on the dubious premise that the rich will work harder if they receive more money while people of modest means work harder if they receive less. In reality, the rich contribute more to Republican campaigns when they get bailed out…McConnell and Senate Republicans quietly inserted into the last Covid relief bill a $170bn windfall to Jared Kushner and other real estate moguls. Another $454bn went to backing up a Federal Reserve program that benefits big business by buying up debt…And although that bill was also intended to help small businesses, lobbyists connected to Trump – including current donors and fundraisers for his re-election – helped their clients rake in more than $10bn, while an estimated 90% of small businesses owned by people of color and women got nothing…The inept and overwhelmingly corrupt reign of Trump and McConnell will come to an end next January if enough Americans vote this November.”

In his column on “The Democrats’ suburban evangelists,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “No one will ever accuse Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, a freshman electedin the 2018 Democratic wave, of complacency. “The last time a Democrat has won reelection in my district,” he said cheerfully, “was before the Civil War.”…But a lot hangs on the ability of Democrats such as Kim to survive and prosper in places where voters would once have shuddered at the thought of sending anyone but a Republican to Washington…Kim spoke of H.R. 1, the political reform package that many Democrats will highlight this fall. “When it comes to campaign finance reform and fighting corruption in Washington and fighting corporate special interests in Washington,” Kim said, “the vast majority of people in my district, whether Republicans or Democrats or unaffiliated voters, that is a top priority for them.” It could prove to be a sleeper issue…Building a new majority requires converting voters who were once part of the old one. No one is more aware of this than the Democrats’ suburban evangelists.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her column, “New July 2020 Electoral College Ratings,” Amy Walter notes at The Cook Political Report, “This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave. President Trump, mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (8 points), Michigan (9 points), and Wisconsin (9 points). He’s even running behind Biden in his firewall states of Florida and North Carolina…We’ve made changes to our Electoral College ratings to reflect this reality…Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska’s 2nd district move from Toss Up to Lean Democrat…Maine, once in Lean Democrat, moves to the safer Likely Democratic category…Georgia has joined Arizona, North Carolina and Florida in the Toss Up column, although, at this point, Biden would be slightly favored to win at least Arizona and Florida…Maine’s 2nd district has moved from Likely Republican to a more competitive Lean Republican…These moves alone push Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold (to 279).”

“One of the biggest unknowns, however,” Walter continues, “is voting itself. As we’ve seen this spring and early summer, most states are not prepared for an onslaught of absentee ballots. And confusion about how/where to vote could impact turnout. Moreover, if voters start to sense that the race for president is a blow-out, will they be more willing to split their tickets to ensure a ‘check and balance’ in Washington next fall? At least one Republican I spoke with, however, was wary of a check and balance working this year, telling me that “people are looking for a restart and a reset.” That includes down-ballot candidates as well as the president.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook discusses the roles of key demographic groups in the election and writes, “It’s among white voters that things get more interesting. The first thing to note is that their overall share of the electorate is shrinking at a fairly rapid rate, dropping about 2 percentage points every four years, from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2012 and 70 percent in the last election—something that Republicans should keep in mind…Among those four quadrants of white voters, split by gender and level of educational attainment, Trump won the support of white men with less than a four-year college degree (17 percent of the 2016 electorate) by a 49-point margin (72 to 23 percent) in 2016. He has led Biden by anywhere from 25 to 44 points in polling over the past two months. This is Trump’s base; only among self-described Republicans, conservatives, and evangelicals does he do better.”

“The next-best group for Trump,” Cook adds “is white women with less than a four-year degree. They also made up 17 percent of the 2016 electorate, siding with the Republicans by a 28-point margin (62 to 34 percent). This group has strayed from the Trump camp since 2016; most recent polling has him ahead by somewhere between 5 and 15 points…White men with college degrees come next, again with 17 percent of the 2016 vote. Then, they voted for Trump over Clinton by 15 points (54 to 39 percent). But public polling in the current race has been all over the map. The early June PBS/NPR/Marist College poll had Biden up by 2 points (47 to 45 percent), the May and June Fox News polls had Trump up by 8 (51 to 43 percent) and 10 percent (50 to 40 percent). A late June PBS/NPR/Marist poll as well as March and May ABC News/Washington Post polls had Trump up by 12 points and 4 points, respectively.”

Further, Cook notes, “White women with college degrees give Trump the least support of the four white quadrants. They made up 20 percent of the electorate in the last presidential election, going for Clinton by a 6-point margin. This year, they’ve been siding with Biden by 20- and 30-point margins…The Trump forces will obviously put considerable resources into getting out the vote of white men without college degrees; the Biden campaign will put the same kind of resources into African Americans, Latinos and white women with college degrees. The battlefield will be the persuadable college-educated men and women without degrees.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes the roots of political polarization in 2020, and shares observations from several studies, including: “Jaime Settle, a political scientist at the College of William and Mary, has also explored the ambiguities of heritability of psychological traits with political consequences. “While there is a consistent pattern that ideology is heritable, the direction of partisanship typically has not been found to be heritable,” she wrote in an email. However, she continued, “My expectation is that the sorting in American politics that occurred in the post-Civil Rights Era has changed that. Thus, partisanship today might show up to be heritable, but it would be a statistical artifact of the consequence of the alignment of ideology and partisanship…Our ideological labels in America have become identities as much as statements about our political beliefs. In the parlance of political scientists, people have much stronger symbolic ideologies than operational ideologies. The intractability of polarization is because of the alignment of many of our social identities, an argument that Lily Mason [author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identitymakes, and the reason “culture war” issues resonate so much is that they are much more threatening to people’s layered identities.””

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides an insightful assessment of the recent Supreme Court ruling “that allows even publicly traded corporations — not just family-owned companies — to deny their female employees this coverage if they have religious objections.” Dionne argues: “Given that more than two-thirds of Americans believe, in principle at least, that private health insurance plans should cover contraception, it’s strange that we can’t seem to settle the matter. You would think a functioning democracy could work this issue out in a reasonable way that respected the rights of women as well as the rights of those with religious objections to contraception…in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, asked exactly the right question: “May the Government jettison an arrangement that promotes women workers’ well-being while accommodating employers’ religious tenets and, instead, defer entirely to employers’ religious beliefs, although that course harms women who do not share those beliefs?”…ultimately, it will be for the voters to decide whether we want leadership that seeks reasonable and durable settlements of divisive cultural questions. Doing so will help us move on to such pressing concerns as getting everyone health coverage in the first place.”

“Over the last few decades, Georgia has gone from a swing state to reliably GOP. But it’s now looking like a genuinely competitive state again,” J. Miles Coleman and Nials Francis write in “States of Play: Georgia – Once-dominant Democrats need formerly Republican suburbs to come through for them in 2020” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Democrats have made major inroads in both urban Atlanta and its suburbs, but their gains have been somewhat blunted by the sharp Republican trend in other parts of the state…In the state’s regular Senate election this year, we’re downgrading Sen. David Perdue’s chances. We now have both Georgia’s seats rated as Leans Republican…Looking to November, Georgia seems poised to receive attention from both sides, up and down the ballot. While it does seem to be shifting more into the purple state category, if Biden carries the state, he would likely already be over 270 electoral votes. With one, or both, of its Senate races likely heading to a runoff, political junkies could have Georgia on their minds even after the November general elections. Finally, Georgia’s two competitive House seats speak to the rapid pace of changes that parts of the state have seen. In 2016, the Crystal Ball rated both GA-6 and GA-7 as Safe Republican. After nearly a full term of the Trump presidency, Democrats are favored to hold the former and have at least an even money chance to flip the latter.”

From “Biden-Sanders taskforces unveil proposals for party unity” at msn.com: “US presidential hopeful Joe Biden on Wednesday unveiled proposals crafted with supporters of his progressive ex-rival Bernie Sanders as the Democratic Party prepares to release its platform at next month’s national convention…The recommendations include more ambitious environmental timelines than those in Biden’s initial climate proposal, such as eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035…They also include criminal justice reforms that take on added significance in the wake of the May killing of African-American man George Floyd by Minneapolis police…The proposals home in on the coronavirus pandemic and aim to end the disadvantage that blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and women “have suffered disproportionately due to the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s recession,” and have received less than their fair share of economic relief…The task forces on climate change, health care, the economy, immigration, education and criminal justice reform came together in May to forge a roadmap for defeating Trump, and to engage voters who supported more progressive candidates in the primary race including Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren…”Though the end result is not what I or my supporters would have written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families,” Sanders said in a statement.”