washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

How pro-Democratic or pro-Republican is your congressional district? The Cook Political Report  survey is out with its “Partisan Voting Index” measurements. As David Wasserman and Ally Flinn note, “First introduced in 1997, the Cook PVI measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. We have released new PVI scores following every election and round of redistricting since 1996, each time taking into account the prior two presidential elections. This time, we teamed up with Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections to calculate 2020’s results by district….A Partisan Voter Index score of D+2, for example, means that in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, that district performed an average of two points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole, while an R+4 means the district performed four points more Republican. If a district performed within half a point of the national average in either direction, we assign it a score of EVEN.” Check out how your congressional district leaned by clicking on this link and hovering your mouse over your district.

In his syndicated Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why there is growing support for higher taxes on top corporations: “Just how much have corporations shucked off their responsibility for sharing the load? As Steve Rattner, the economic commentator and chartmaker on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” pointed out, corporate taxes accounted for 23 percent of federal revenue in 1966 but just 7 percent in 2019. The previous year, 91 of the Fortune 500 companies paid an effective rate of zero — or less. That wasn’t a typo. Burdening middle-income taxpayers before asking more of corporations would be political and policy malpractice….The downward trend Rattner describes is a product of what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called a “30-year race to the bottom” as globalization and the proliferation of tax havens made it ever easier for corporations to escape taxes. This is why one of the Biden administration’s most important long-term initiatives is its proposal for a uniform minimum corporate tax across national boundaries….In a speech this month advancing the idea, Yellen spoke of every democracy’s need for “stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Ryan P. Burge and Perry Bacon, Jr. share some data regarding public opinion about filibuster reform, which indicate that a majority of Americans [53 percent] favor either ditching the filibuster altogether, or reforming filibuster rules: “Opinions were more mixed on getting rid of the filibuster, as some Democrats are proposing,” Burge and Bacon write: “The Daily Kos/Civiqs survey found 39 percent support getting rid of the filibuster, 14 percent want it reformed but not eliminated, 38 percent want to keep the filibuster and 10 percent are unsure.”  Bacon and Burge did not provide the granular detail, but it’s likely some of that 38 percent believe that bipartisanship is still possible, and/or that the filibuster is a bipartisan tool that both parties can use to prevent wafer-thin majorities from enacting unwise policies, and/or that hefty majorities should be required to pass important legislation. Democrats who want filibuster reform apparently have to do more educational outreach to build public support for it.

Not that there is much chance of any reforms being enacted in the forseeable near future, but “Nearly two-thirds of all U.S. adults surveyed in a new poll said that they believed Supreme Court justices should face term limits and leave the court after a certain amount of time on the bench,” John Bowden writes at The Hill. “The Reuters-Ipsos survey conducted between April 15 and April 16 found that just 22 percent of respondents supported lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices, while 63 percent supported term limits. The remainder of respondents had no opinion or were unsure….While having new faces join the court was important for many Americans, doing it without a vacancy on the court at its current size was not nearly as popular. Just 38 percent said they supported court packing, or expanding the size of the Supreme Court and adding more justices to the bench, while 42 percent opposed such an idea. The remaining 20 percent of respondents were unsure.”

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats to introduce bill to expand Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices: President Joe Biden announced the formation of a commission last week to study the court’s structure, including the number of justices and their length of service.” by Sahil Kapur at nbcnews.com:  “Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, joining progressive activists pushing to transform the court. The move intensifies a high-stakes ideological fight over the future of the court after President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years, including one who was confirmed days before the 2020 election….The Democratic bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mondaire Jones of New York….The Supreme Court can be expanded by an act of Congress, but the legislation is highly unlikely to become law in the near future given Democrats’ slim majorities, which include scores of lawmakers who are not on board with the idea. President Joe Biden has said he is “not a fan” of packing the court….”This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans,” said Brian Fallon, a former Senate Democratic leadership aide and a co-founder of Demand Justice, who described the court as “broken and in need of reform.”….”Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the court and protect our democracy,” he said.”

The next time you hear an argument about the wisdom of President Biden’s decision to withdraw the remaining U.S. ground forces from Afghanistan, calmly ask those criticizing his decision, “How many troops are we talking about?,” and see how close they get to the actual number, 2,500 — down from over 100,000 during the Obama Administration. A good follow-up question might be, “Can 2,500 troops really accomplish our primary strategic objectives?” That will spark a wide-ranging discussion of our strategic objectives, prompting critics of Biden’s decision to call for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan, a pricey option for a nation that is assuming a couple trillion dollars in expenses we didn’t forsee a year ago. “The simplest explanation of the US goal in Afghanistan is to keep it from again becoming a hotbed for terror groups like al Qaeda. When the US left Iraq, for instance, the power vaccum helped lead to the rise of ISIS there,” Zachary B. Wolf writes at CNN Politics. “But what the US has been trying to accomplish in Afghanistan, and the strategy to do it, has changed with each president.” There are some strong arguments for a continued and increased military forces in Afghanistan, most of them rooted in human rights, particularly for women. But, Biden, a former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has carefully weighed the cost/benefit ratio, after consulting with the top military and economic analysts. The U.S. D.O.D. estimates that the U.S. has spent $778 billion in Afghanistan from Oct. 2001 to Septmeber 2019. The New York Times reported that “the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion.” The human toll includes, 2,300 American soldiers killed, and many more wounded. That’s a lot of heartbreak, with few measurable accomplishments. When it comes to military budget cuts, Afghanistan looks like low-hanging fruit.

In his article, “Few Americans Who Identify As Independent Are Actually Independent. That’s Really Bad For Politics,” Geoffrey Skeeley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “The share of Americans who say they’re independent has climbed considerably, according to Gallup’s quarterly party affiliation data. In the late 1980s, roughly one-third of Americans identified as Democratic, Republican or independent. Now, 40 percent or more identify as independent, while the share who identify as Democrats or Republicans has fallen to around 30 percent or lower, as the chart below shows….The problem is that few independents are actually independent. Roughly 3 in 4 independents still lean toward one of the two major political parties, and studies show that these voters aren’t all that different from the voters in the party they lean toward. Independents who lean toward a party also tend to back that party at almost the same rate as openly partisan voters….The abandonment of voters openly identifying with one of the two parties has led to less political engagement, which means Americans are exerting less influence on what the parties look and sound like. That’s a real problem since the parties are still the fundamental building blocks that organize our politics. But with party building left to more stringent partisans, the parties’ bases have largely cultivated candidates who tend to be more ideologically extreme than the voters they seek to represent.” We know that Republicans are stuck in an inflexible commitment to Trumpism. Democrats also have room to strengthen their party’s image and brand, far more flexibility than the GOP — and much to gain by doing so.

“Without a dramatic change in the rules governing the filibuster,” Walter Shapiro writes in “The Case for the Talking Filibuster” at The New Republic. “Democrats have no chance of passing the ambitious voting rights bill known as the “For the People Act” that has already won approval in the House. The same is true for legislation that would enact gun control and raise the minimum wage….The C-SPAN cameras are the biggest X-factor in assessing the strategic merits of a talking filibuster. The first few days of a talking filibuster—especially if you add the drama of an all-night session or two—could attract a sizable audience. And if the Republicans were opposing a voting rights bill, it would be instructive to hear their arguments as fatigue stripped away their masquerade that they are defenders of election integrity….Let’s be honest—there are no guarantees that McConnell can be defeated as long as it takes 60 votes to shut off Senate debate. But the other options open to the Democrats are bleak in a 50–50 Senate. That is true whether the legislation is to protect voting rights, promote gun safety, or provide a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A talking filibuster may not be a panacea. But at least it would require Republicans to put their mouths where their money is.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Economist: ‘Voter restriction bills will cost Texas billions‘,” at kvue.com, Ashely Goudeau reports “Two Republican-backed bills to make sweeping elections changes could cost Texas billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, according to local economists….Central Texas Economist Ray Perryman, Ph.D., analyzed data, studies and research of state economies correlation to voting access. His team found when voter access is restricted, business and the economy suffer due to the loss of business, jobs and major events and deals….Among other things, Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6 ban drive-thru voting, limit voting hours and stop elections clerks from proactively sending out mail-in ballot applications to registered voters. Republicans say the bills will enhance voter integrity, but democrats and critics say the bills aim to suppress voters, particularly minority voters….”As of 2025, if a bill like this would come into effect and be in effect for about five years, we’ve found Texas could lose about $14.7 billion in GDP and roughly around 73,000 jobs,” Dr. Perryman said….Dr. Perryman also estimates Texas’ tourism and economic development would take a $16.7 billion hit in the first five years if one of the bills becomes law. And those figures only increase the longer the laws are in effect.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The Supreme Court faces a legitimacy crisis not because progressives are complaining but because of what they are complaining about: a reckless, right-wing, anti-democratic court majority, and a conservative court-packing campaign marked by the disgraceful Republican blockade against President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 and the unseemly rush to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett just before President Donald Trump’s defeat last November….Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump were the court-packers. There would be far less talk of court enlargement if McConnell and Trump had not abused their power. Nor would enlargement be on the table if conservative justices had not substituted their own political preferences for Congress’s decisions, notably on voting rights and campaign finance reform, 5-to-4 rulings on which Breyer, rightly, joined the dissenters.”

Adie Tomer explains why “Biden’s infrastructure plan replaces federal cynicism with a sweeping vision” at Brookings: “Put it all together and the Biden proposal offers the most powerful ingredient when it comes to infrastructure reform: It sells a vision. The plan unapologetically calls out our next destination, whether that’s safer streets or cleaner power. It offers sweeping investments to make such a vision real, from replacing aging pipes to delivering rural broadband. And it brings people—especially our workforce—along for the ride….Biden has used the stump the way a forward-looking president should. The administration has delivered a vision to the American people—a promise of a new kind of country. And the country itself is responding, with polling that shows bipartisan support for the plan’s ideas….America was built for these kinds of grand visions. It is starting to feel like another one may soon come to life….Biden’s plan is an enormous bet on America—a bet that trillions of dollars of targeted investment can improve people’s lives, make our industries more globally competitive, and repair our fragile natural world. It’s also a major bet on the power of federal investment. Rather than asking states and cities to do more, as the Trump administration’s plan sought, the proposal recognizes the economic moment and essentially says that it’s time for the federal government to lead.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic: “One asset Democrats have in this struggle is time. However successful Republicans are at tarnishing Biden’s programs at the outset among core GOP voters, Biden has an opportunity to change those perceptions through the actual implementation of his plans. Even during the putative honeymoon period at his presidency’s start, Biden’s approval rating among rural and non-college-educated white voters has remained stuck at only a little over one-third. But the stimulus package has drawn substantial support in polls even from Republican voters, and those numbers could rise even more as families feel the effects of the aid. Likewise, if Democrats can pass Biden’s infrastructure program this summer, that will leave plenty of time before the next two elections to start repairing bridges and roads, and to break ground on new water systems, new wind and solar installations, and new broadband facilities. Even small gains in nonurban areas from such initiatives would fortify Democrats’ position in states near the tipping point of American elections, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia, Hildreth told me. “I think we are maybe a decade from having a majority in critical rural counties, but we just need to cut margins right now,” he said. “Literally the motto is ‘Lose less.’”

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “The Fear That is Shaping American Politics,” Thomas B. Edsall notes, “Robert Griffin, research director of the nonpartisan Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, wrote by email that he expects “the national environment to be worse for Democrats in 2022 than it was in 2020.” The shift, he continued, will almost certainly include a loss of support among white voters who — if history is any guide — will represent a larger share of the electorate in 2022 because of midterm turnout dynamics….Griffin wrote that “it’s not obvious to me that this shift will be dependent on Biden’s ability or failure to overcome white racial resentment,” because “these midterm dynamics are pretty baked in and it would be shocking to see them defied.”….On the plus side for Democrats, Griffin noted: The growing educational divide among white Americans does present an interesting opportunity for the Democratic Party. One of the things most people don’t appreciate is that white overrepresentation among voters is driven almost entirely by white college voters. This overrepresentation of white college voters is even greater in midterm elections. The growing educational divide among white voters — with Biden viewed much more favorably by white college voters — potentially blunts some of those midterm dynamics I described….I asked Griffin what the prospects are for Biden to build a stronger and more durable Democratic coalition. He is doubtful: If you had to pick one group that would do the most to solidify the democratic coalition electorally, it would be white non-college voters. They make up more than 40 percent of voters and are exceptionally well represented in the Electoral College, the House and the Senate….Biden, Griffin continued, improved slightly on Hillary Clinton’s margin among these voters, but it wasn’t anything massive. Given the long-term trends away from the Democratic Party among these voters, even holding onto his 2020 margins would likely represent an achievement.”

At Slow Boring, Matthew Yglesias makes a pretty convincing case that, contrary to popular beliefs, America’s transportation infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, is not all that bad. Yglesias writes that “the existing surface transportation funding levels in the United States are inadequate. We have some of the best commute times in the world in an international context; our road quality is improving under current funding levels; and the biggest practical problem we have — endemic congestion in a few key metro areas — is not really amenable to being addressed with a big surge of funding.” Yglesias acknowledges that there is room for imrovement in mass rail transit in cities like New York, and notes, “What America’s bad traffic cities really need is congestion pricing, zoning that allows more people to live in convenient locations, and selective investments in improving mass transit capacity.” Yglesias would like to see more infrastructure investment on other more urgently-needed priorities, and notes “the same low population density that generally makes our commutes good has left us with subpar levels of mass broadband adoption. The challenge of moving electricity around is very real. Lead in water pipes is really bad. These infrastructure challenges are huge and much more important than roads and bridges. If the bill gets changed, it’s important to keep that stuff.”

In ‘keep doing what you’re doing, Mr. President’ news,  Chelsea Cox reports at USA Today, “More Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans by a margin that hasn’t been seen in a decade, according to a report released by Gallup on Wednesday…An average of 49% of adults age 18 and older reported Democratic Party affiliation or said they are independent with Democratic leanings throughout the first quarter of 2021, the pollster reported. The survey was conducted by phone from January-March.  In comparison, 40% of adults identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. The 9% difference is the Democrats’ largest advantage since the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the report. The remaining 11% of respondents were political independents with no partisan leanings….Democrats have typically held a 4 to 6 point advantage over Republicans.  Shortly before the first quarter of the year, the gap in affiliation was virtually nonexistent before Democrats’ advantage widened by 9%….The report also noted a 6% increase in independents; from 38% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 44% in the first quarter of 2021. It’s the highest percentage since 2013, when 46% of survey respondents identified as independents. The rise correlates with the decline in Republican Party identification, just as in 2013, when the GOP saw a drop in the popularity during the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act.”

Democrats pondering a response to Mitch McConnell’s sanctimonious comments urging corporations to “stay out of politics” should check out former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s zinger: “Mitch McConnell continued his tirade against businesses who have spoken out against Georgia’s egregious voter suppression bill today, telling reporters that corporations should “stay out of politics.” Yes, you read that right….That’s rich, coming from one of the most outspoken supporters of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allowed corporate cash and big money to flood unabated into our democracy. I suppose McConnell has no problem with “corporate free speech” when it’s benefiting him personally — he was, after all, the top recipient of corporate cash in the 2020 election cycle. And he even took a case all the way to the Supreme Court in 2003 because he was so determined to bring more corporate money into our political process. Republicans love corporations in politics when it means they’re bankrolling Republican campaigns — but as soon as corporations stand up against Republican hatred and bigotry, it’s time for them to be silent. The hypocrisy is staggering.”

Political Strategy Notes

Harry Enten notes some worrisome stats for Democrats at CNN Politics: “Democrats represent a mere five seats of the 65 districts (8%) that have a higher proportion of Whites without a college degree in their ranks. All of those Democratic representatives were incumbents heading into the 2020 elections (i.e. no non-incumbents like Hart won in these districts). Going further, a mere two of the top 50 districts with Whites without a college degree have a Democratic representative and none of the top 10 do….After the 2006 elections, Democrats controlled 44% of the districts with as many or more White non-college graduates as Iowa’s 2nd District. They held 23 of the top 50 districts matching this description, or 21 more than they do now. Additionally, Democrats held five of the top 10 of these districts compared to zero today.”

In his article, “Why Democrats Might Need to Play Dirty to Win: The party is trying to ban partisan gerrymandering nationwide, but aggressively redrawing districts in blue states like New York might be the only way to preserve its House majority,” Russell berman writes at The Atlantic: “To hear democratic leaders decry gerrymandering as part of their current bid to enact landmark voting-rights legislation, you’d think the centuries-old practice was a mortal threat to the republic. But political necessity could soon demand that Democrats drop their purity act. To keep their narrow House majority, they might have to deploy the tactic everywhere they can, and every bit as aggressively as Republicans do….Nationwide, the challenge for Democrats is formidable: The shuffling of House seats as a result of the decennial census is expected to shift power from mostly Democratic states like California, New York, and Illinois to states like Texas, Florida, and North Carolina—all of which will have legislatures controlled by Republicans who will be in charge of drawing new districts. “The bottom line is: If this becomes an arms race, and both parties maximize their advantage in the states that they control, Republicans will come out ahead,” David Wasserman, an analyst for the nonpartisan newsletter The Cook Political Report, told me. The GOP needs to flip just five Democratic seats to recapture the House majority in 2022, and conceivably, the party could gain all of those seats through gerrymandering alone. Wasserman projects that Republicans could net anywhere from zero to 10 seats from redistricting.”

Joe Biden’s first set of judicial nominations this week is the beginning of something big: almost certainly by the end of this Congress, the majority of lower court seats will be filled by Democratic appointees,” Bill Scher writes at The Washington Monthly. “That may surprise you, considering the breathless coverage Donald Trump received for his four-year judicial confirmation blitz. We were constantly told he was transforming the judiciary for a generation. With Sen. Mitch McConnell’s help, the Senate became a judicial confirmation factory. Not counting the Supreme Court, Trump got 231 judges with lifetime appointments confirmed. No president got more lower court judges confirmed in a single term since Jimmy Carter….the Republican grip on the lower courts is tenuous. Just one circuit court has to flip for Democrats to hold the majority of circuits again. Just nine seats have to flip for Democrats to hold the majority of seats again….Securing those flips shouldn’t be too hard. Despite Trump’s torrid pace, he left some judicial seats empty, and more vacancies have been announced since Biden’s inauguration. At present, the federal judiciary has 97 currentand future vacancies for seats with lifetime appointments. Fifty-two of those vacant seats were last held by Republicans….Trump was able to move faster than most presidents because the filibuster for lower court judges was nuked by Democrats in 2013 (with Republicans finishing the job regarding Supreme Court nominee in 2017). Now it’s Biden who gets to take advantage of the easier rules, so he will at least partially offset Trump’s gains.”

Despite the raised eyebrows about the size of President Biden’s infrastructure upgrade proposals, it looks like he has the support of the public. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. notes at The Washington Post, “And yes, big infrastructure investments of the sort President Biden has proposed (and that Republicans seem ready to oppose en masse) are broadly endorsed by the public; so are Biden’s proposed ways of paying for them….The Morning Consult/Politico poll, for example, found that 54 percent of registered voters — including 32 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of conservatives — favored infrastructure improvements financed by taxes on those earning more than $400,000 annually and increases in the corporate tax rate. (Another 27 percent of registered voters favored infrastructure spending without the taxes.)”

Political Strategy Notes

So why is it good strategy for a Democratic campaign not to contest a House of Reps. election lost by just 6 votes, one of the closest federal elections in history? At FiveThirtyEight Geoffrey Skelley explains: “Democrats were reportedly worried at the prospect of having to vote on whether to unseat Miller-Meeks, especially considering how loudly they protested former President Trump and Republicans’ attempts to overturn the 2020 election earlier this year. Additionally, there were concerns it would undermine Democrats’ efforts to pass a massive voting rights and election reform bill. That, along with the Democrats’ narrow majority, suggested it was going to be very challenging for Democrats to reverse the outcome — even if they felt Hart had a valid case….Moreover, Republican messaging had put Democrats on the defensive. For instance, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed they were trying to “steal” the election, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly asked major businesses and organizations that were critical of GOP objections to the Electoral College on Jan. 6 to hold Democrats to “the same standard” for contesting the Iowa result….In the end, the math wasn’t there for Democrats to reverse the outcome, and the potential fallout doesn’t seem to have been worth it, either.” Sounds like a good argument for a automatic recounts whenever elections are decided by less than one tenth of one percent of all votes cast.

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr. has a good article exploring Sen. Joe Mancin’s role as a Democratic Senator. Among Bacon’s observations: “However he is doing it, though, Manchin’s winning a very red state gives him incredible power. He is a lifelong Democrat and seems committed to the party. But he doesn’t really owe Biden, his fellow Senate Democrats or the formal Democratic Party much of anything — his political brand is really separate from theirs….So Democrats don’t have much, if any, leverage over the West Virginia senator. Prominent Democrats are surely aware that Manchin could switch parties and join the GOP and that that might help his political career, so they can’t really attack him too harshly when he takes more conservative stands. Also, there is virtually no chance that a Democrat to the left of Manchin could win a general election in West Virginia, so Democrats can’t really keep Manchin in line with the threat of a primary challenge, either….Manchin, as I noted earlier, seems deeply committed to the Democratic Party. But he might disagree with the dominant electoral thinking in the party. After all, emphasizing bipartisanship is Manchin’s strategy, and he’s the one winning in a super-Republican state.” I would add that, overall, Mancin is a big net plus for the Democratic Party, as its most vocal advocate of bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate, and there is no equivalent in the G.O.P. Even left Democrats who think strategically should agree that lends credibility to the Democratic brand with swing voters. In January, a Monmouth University poll noted that “The desire for bipartisan cooperation is higher than it was just after the November election (62%), and includes 41% of Republicans (up from 28% in November) as well as 70% of independents (68%) and 94% of Democrats (92%).”

President Biden also sees value in bipartisanship in the Democratic Brand. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column: “Biden’s big new infrastructure program involves far more than roads, bridges and mass transit, but he hopes to remind Republicans that once upon a time, in a Washington of long ago, the two parties were capable of coming together to build stuff….“Historically, infrastructure had been a bipartisan undertaking, many times led by Republicans,” Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh outlining the plan. “There’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again. The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”….As a result, said Molly Murphy, a Democratic pollster, “Republicans will face a tough challenge in trying to make something like infrastructure into something radical.” Which is why, she added, the GOP will try to focus their attacks on other aspects of the plan. “Polling,” she said, “has consistently shown broad support for the idea that rebuilding infrastructure is the best way to create jobs and get the economy moving.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall notes, “At the moment, Democrats control the House by a slim 219-211 majority, with five seats vacant. The loss of just five seats in 2022 would flip control to the Republican Party, which would then be empowered to block President Biden’s agenda….In 2020, white men without college degrees voted 60-35 for Trump and similarly educated white women voted 54-40 for Trump, according to survey data from the Cooperative Election Study….Republican efforts to claim the mantle of “the party of the working class” may be at cross purposes with the drive to enact voter suppression laws that will fall heavily on the working class….The enactment of Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus bill has increased his popularity, but voters’ memories are short. At the same time that he retains high favorability ratings on his handling the economy and the pandemic, voters surveyed in a NPR/Marist March 22-25 Poll, registered unfavorable views of his handling of immigration (34 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove), and a March 20-23 Economist/YouGov survey found voters split on Biden’s handling of crime (39 approve, 40 disapprove)….Without approval of the kind of election reform the voting rights bill seeks, the odds will shift further against continued Democratic control of the House and Senate and possibly result in another Democratic president ground down by gridlock.”

Will the GA GOP Boot the State’s Thriving Film Industry to Keep Voter Suppression Legislation?

Boycotts are always tricky, and if they are well-organized and widely-supported, they are usually powerful. Thus, smarter Georgia Republicans must be very nervous about growing talk of boycotts of Georgia-based corporations and a statewide boycott that guts Georgia’s thriving film industry.

In “Will Hollywood Boycott Georgia Over New Voting Law?,” Bryn Sandberg writes at The Hollywood Reporter:

Georgia is facing calls for a potential boycott from Hollywood, this time over a new controversial voting bill that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed March 25.

The new election law — which ushers in more rigid voters restrictions like ID requirements for absentee voting, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food and water to voters in line — has drawn widespread criticism from voting rights groups and Democrats. President Biden dubbed it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” while Stacey Abrams called it “a reminder of Georgia’s dark past.”

It’s also been denounced by many in Hollywood. Some of those outspoken industry figures have even gone as far as to call for a boycott of the state, a movement that’s waxed and waned over the years as other controversial legislation, largely concerning abortion and LGBTQ rights, has come and gone. The impact of a boycott could be significant, though, as Hollywood regularly shoots TV shows and movies in the state and has helped to grow Georgia’s robust film business into the nearly $10 billion industry it is.

Among those in Hollywood most vocal about a boycott is Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold, who tweeted that he would not direct a future film in Georgia due to the new law. (Ford v Ferrarishot some in Georgia.) “Georgia has been using cash to steal movie jobs from other states that allow people to vote. I don’t want to play there,” wrote the director, who is making the upcoming Indiana Jones movie. “The state will be irredeemably red with these new ‘laws.'”

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill seconded Mangold’s call to action, posting a tweet with the hashtag #NoMoreFilminginGeorgia. Production designer François Audouy, who has worked with Mangold on multiple films, also said that he would not design a film in Georgia in the wake of the new voter restrictions.

But while calls for a boycott grow, so do pleas to halt the movement before it gains more steam. “Please stop the #BoycottGeorgia talk,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King wrote on Twitter. “That would hurt middle class workers and people grappling with poverty. And it would increase the harm of both racism and classism.”

Georgia-based actor Steve Coulter, who has appeared in shows like P Valley and Yellowstone, asked Mangold to think twice before boycotting: “James … we here in GA fought like hell the last 4 years to turn it blue. We gave you two Dem Senators. Your boycott only hurts us, the thousands of rank & film actors & crew. Think before you cancel. Please. We’ve worked too hard.”

One on-the-ground Georgia production insider says they feel like the calls for a boycott are much weaker this time around. “It seems like a few years ago, it was a lot louder and the ball got rolling a bit quicker,” says the source, who acknowledges that cast and crew being out of work for so long amid the pandemic might be part of the reason other stars and studios aren’t immediately jumping on the boycott train.

This individual also notes that the local film community is more prepared to fight back against those who urge pulling business, given this isn’t their first rodeo. “There are better and more effective ways of protesting,” the source adds. Others are quick to point out that with Tyler Perry Studios, Georgia is home to the only Black-owned studio in the country.

Abrams, for her part, has condemned the legislation as a “voter suppression bill targeted at Black and brown voters,” but has yet to weigh in on the calls for a boycott. In the past, however, she has advised against them. Amid anti-abortion legislation in 2019, she pennedLos Angeles Times op-ed that said that while she respected the calls for a boycott of the state, “I do not believe it is the most effective, strategic choice for change,” she wrote at the time.

Newly elected Sen. Raphael Warnock harshly criticized the new voter restrictions — but when asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if boycotts should be on the table, he didn’t offer a clear yes or no. “I think we all have to use our voices,” he said, vaguely. “We will see how all of that plays out, but I am focused on what we can do in the United States Senate.”

Calls for a boycott are extending beyond Hollywood, too. Civil rights groups have urged for the Masters Tournament and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game to find new locations amid the bill’s passage. According to The Boston Globe, the head of Major League Baseball’s players’ union said he’d “look forward” to discussing potentially moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta. Georgia-based corporations Coca-Cola and Delta have also come under fire for their stances on the bill.

A similar movement grew in Hollywood two years ago in response to Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion bill, which a federal judge ruled was unconstitutional last year, and a year before that over anti-LGBTQ adoption legislation, which former Governor Nathan Deal vetoed.

Balance the concerns of Georgia’s moderate leaders about a boycott against impressive boycott successes, and it’s a tough call. It would be a shame if thousands of jobs were lost in the state because of a boycott as the price to re-elect Sen. Warnock in 2022, and an even worse shame if he lost anyway. But it would also be a shame if Dems lost Warnock’s seat becase they were too timid to leverage the power of a boycott.

With respect to boycotts in general, there is always an argument to allow legal strategies to be exhausted before going all in on boycotts. The danger is that legal strategy can eat up the clock and have activists scrambling in the final months leading up to the 2022 elections. The reluctance of some Georgia public figures may be a kind of ‘good cop’ response to the ‘bad cop’ activists call for boycotts. But the net effect of increasing both pro and con boycott talk will likely escalate unfavorable publicity for the Georgia’s Republican Party’s political brinksmanship, which is now flirting with economic disaster for the state.

There is also the possibility that the enactment of federal voting rights legislation, including H.R.1, The “For the People Act’ and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act will undo the damage done by the rash of voter suppression laws in the states, including Georgia. But these reforms will depend on Democrats successfuly implementing carefully-constructed filibuster reform, which is also a tricky project.

All available strategic options for progressives in fighting Georgia’s voter suppression laws carry risk. But there is no question that Georgia’s leadership in the film industry gives the state a uniquely powerful card to play if there is a boycott. The hope is that just the threat of a boycott will encourage the state’s Republican leaders to repeal the recently-passed voter suppression legislation, or at least pass a more moderate bill that overrides the new legislation’s worst features.

Teixeira: Joe Biden, Keep on Doing the Voodoo That You Do!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

I’ve got to hand it to Biden. So far, he has kept his eye on the ball and is concentrating on doing the big, popular things that will benefit a wide swathe of the electorate, particularly working class voters of all races. That’s smart and exactly what the Democratic party should stand for. A good article on HuffPost reports on the positive reaction Biden’s moves are getting from Democratic politicians in competitive states and districts.

“Across the country, Democrats are uniformly lining up behind the most essential parts of Biden’s policy program, aggressively trying to sell the already-passed American Rescue Plan ― which sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and which Democrats say will help crush the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools ― with Biden himself embracing a prediction of 6% economic growth at his press conference last week.

They are eagerly anticipating his next legislative proposal, which Biden is expected to lay out in a speech in Pittsburgh this week. Early reports indicate the more than $3 trillion package will contain hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, aid for caregivers, and a package of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations.

Driving this party-wide political bet is a conviction that robust economic liberalism can renew Americans’ faith in their government, give them a political advantage on economic issues and stem continued defections among working-class voters of all races to a GOP almost exclusively focused on culture war issues.

“We’re going to keep building until every American has that peace of mind and to show that our government can fulfill its most essential purpose: to care for and protect the American people,” Biden said Tuesday during an event at Ohio State University in Columbus, with Ryan in attendance. “When we work together, we can do big things, important things, necessary things.”….

“I think people are starting to get confidence in the government again,” [Tim] Ryan [Democratic House representative from the Youngstown area of Ohio] said. “You can already feel a lot of voters saying, ‘I didn’t vote for Biden, but I appreciate what he’s doing.’ And if we keep going down this road, a lot of these people are going to approve of it.”

It’s the hope of Ryan and other Democrats that many of those voters are members of the working class. While Democrats made gains with college-educated voters during the Trump era sufficient to gain total control of the federal government, Republicans’ continued gains among voters without higher education ― including substantial gains among Latino and Hispanic voters in 2020 ― threaten the party’s viability in crucial states and districts. (American politics’ bias toward rural states and regions gives voters without college diplomas disproportionate political power.)….

Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant who has often been critical of the party’s outreach to Latinos, said the coronavirus relief package was more important to winning over Latino voters than any of Biden’s early moves to reverse Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

“The biggest thing Joe Biden did is to secure a better chance at winning more of the Latino vote was to get that bill passed and send everybody checks last week,” Rocha, who worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and now runs Nuestro PAC, told reporters in a briefing this week. “That was a huge deal.”

So far, so good. The legislative politics around the second spending package, which Biden will apparently outline on Wednesday, are quite complicated. But I am encouraged by the level of focus the administration has shown so far and hopeful they will effectively manage this challenge and get something big and important through Congress.

Over the longer term, some course correction is needed on issues where the Democrats are vulnerable (like, ahem, immigration) but for the time being the administration is commendably focused on the moves that will pay the richest dividends for the country and potentially swell the ranks for their working class sympathizers. First things first.

Political Strategy Notes

As a result of Georgia’s new voter suppression laws, “Some have called for Major League Baseball to respond by pulling its all-star game out of Atlanta in July, just as the NBA took the 2017 all-star game out of North Carolina  after that state enacted laws limiting anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community,” Damien Cox writes at The Toronto Star.” According to one estimate the NC boycott costed the state $2.75 billion in lost tourism, special events and conventions. Cox notes also, “With respect to the Masters, the National Black Justice Coalition has already called for a boycott….“Professional golf should not reward Georgia’s attacks on democracy and voting rights with the millions of dollars in revenue that the tournament generates and the prestige it brings to the state,” coalition executive director David Johns said.” Back in 1990 the NFL informed Arizona that, if they wanted to host the 1993 Super Bowl, they had to enact a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., as did nearly all other states. Two years later, the Arizona MLK holiday was enacted, after the state lost substantial tourist revenues as a result of the boycott and Stevie Wonder, the Doobie Brothers and Public Enemy cancelled performances in the state. In 2016 more feature films were produced in Georgia than in any other state. Georgia risks losing billions of dollars if the film industry begins relocating movie and TV shows as a result of protests against its voter suppresion laws. More discussion about the boycott at #BoycottGeorgia twitter feed.

From Terry Canefield’s “Georgia’s ‘Jim Crow’ voter suppression bill is now law. Here’s how Democrats can fight back” at nbcnews.com: “The provisions that make it harder for people to vote and the nonsensical provisions can be overridden by federal legislation. The Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to regulate federal elections: Article I, Section 4 gives it the power to make or alter rules for conducting federal elections. The 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment prevent states from discriminating based on race….Because so many of these restrictive provisions disproportionally affect minority voters, lawsuits are already being filed challenging the law….Georgia already has a well-organized voter support team, Fair Fight, headed by Stacey Abrams. State law allows for the casting of ballots and the tabulation of ballots to be observed by members of both parties. American courts demonstrated in 2020 that, even those with extremely conservative judges, they are not willing to overturn the will of the people in an election. Massive turnout and a clear victory are the best antidotes to attempts to suppress the vote….The Republicans are also on notice: Citizens are not likely to vote for the party that passes mean-spirited and anti-democratic laws. In the words of Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman, the Georgia Republicans may have “just handed Democrats their best turnout tool for 2022 & beyond.” After all, when a party outlaws giving water to voters stuck in long lines, what does it say about their values?”

Regarding statehood for Washington, D.C., Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Older polling has found that at least half of Americans oppose statehood, and that hasn’t really changed much. What is notable, though, is how much question wording can move the numbers — perhaps a sign of how we can expect the two sides to frame this debate….Two recent polls asked straightforward questions about D.C. statehood (some form of “Do you support or oppose granting statehood?”) and found the public pretty evenly divided. Forty-nine percent of Americans told Fortune/SurveyMonkey in mid-January that they favored statehood while 45 percent were opposed. For the pro-statehood movement, this is an improvement from some other nonpartisan polling on the topic in 2020, but only slightly. Further complicating the picture, just last week RMG Researchfound that 35 percent supported statehood compared with 41 percent who opposed it. Hardly what one would call a clear picture of public support. It’s important to note, however, that both pollsters asked a simple yes or no question, meaning there’s little reason to think respondents were primed to answer a certain way.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explores data concerning the polarization of American voters and congress, and notes that “Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford, argues in a series of essays and a book, “Unstable Majorities,” that it is the structure of the two-party system that prevents the center — the moderate majority of American voters — from asserting their dominion over national politics: Given multiple dimensions of political conflict — economic, cultural, international — it is simply impossible for two internally homogeneous parties to represent the variety of viewpoints present in a large heterogeneous democracy ….Inevitably, Fiorina writes, Each party bundles issue positions in a way that conflicts with the views of many citizens — most commonly citizens who are economic conservatives and culturally liberal, or economically liberal and culturally conservative, but also internationalist or isolationist-leaning positions layered on top of other divisions….In Fiorina’s view, polarization has been concentrated among “the political class: officeseekers, party officials, donors, activists, partisan media commentators. These are the people who blabber on TV /vent on Facebook/vilify on Twitter/etc.”….This process effectively leaves out “the general public (a.k.a. normal people)” who are “inattentive, uncertain, ambivalent, uninvolved politically, concerned with bread-and-butter issues.” Edsall reviews data showing agreement on issues among many Republiucan and Democratic voters, but concludes, “The country’s conservative party is wedded to an extreme position — with an astonishing 59 percent of Trump voters convinced as recently as March 5-9 that Joe Biden is not a legitimately elected president, according to a YouGov poll….When one party sinks that far into delusion, cross-party cooperation is ruled out, and the kinds of centrist policies that many voters say they want become an impossibility.”

Political Strategy Notes

David Siders explains “Why this moment for gun politics is different” at Politico: “If fallout from the nation’s two most recent mass shootings runs to form, calls for stricter gun laws on the left will meet resistance from the right. Washington will gridlock, and the media will move on….But the current debate is taking place under an uncommon alignment of the political stars, creating a unique moment in the arc of gun politics. Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since 2011. Public polling reflects widespread support for background checks and other gun measures, while the National Rifle Association — a traditional power in Republican Party politics — has been crippled by financial problems and infighting…..For the gun reform movement — a centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s agenda for at least a quarter century — the question this week has become, if not now, when?….The history of midterm elections suggests Democrats are at risk of losing the House next year, shrinking their window for legislative victories…..“The time is definitely now,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun-control group Giffords. Howcver, Siders adds, “Democrats, of course, lack a filibuster-proof majority. And at least one Senate Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, hails from one of the most pro-gun states in the nation. But even if legislation ultimately fails in Washington, holding a vote on a major gun reform bill could be politically significant ahead of the midterm elections next year. For Democrats, said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster, such legislation “would be, at least to some extent, to get a vote on it and be able to use it in suburban districts” in Colorado and across the country.”

In “The Strongest House Candidates In 2020 Were (Mostly) Moderate,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “It’s not an ironclad rule, but there is a lot of evidence that moderate candidates tend to perform better at the ballot box. And though the relationship may be growing weaker with time, an examination of split-ticket voting in the 2020 election suggests it’s still there….Using data on the results of the presidential election by congressional district from Daily Kos Elections, I calculated how much better — or worse — each candidate for U.S. House did than their party’s presidential nominee. Assuming that President Biden and former President Donald Trump’s vote share represent how a “typical” 2020 Democrat or Republican would have done in each district, this gap gives you a rough measure of candidate quality….the vast majority of House candidates performed about as you’d expect based on presidential partisanship. But when you look at the exceptions — the districts where Democratic House candidates most outperformed Biden, and the districts where Republican candidates most outperformed Trump — the strongest candidates tended to be incumbents with moderate voting records and personal brands that differentiate them from the national reputation of their party….It wasn’t just Democratic moderates who punched above their weight. Middle-of-the-road incumbents also represent many of the districts where Republican House candidates most improved upon Trump’s margins (excluding House seats that Democrats did not contest).”

Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill shares the sobering truth regarding “Why We Can’t Start A Civil War In The Democratic Party” on Lawrence O’Donnell’s ‘The Last Word’ on MSNBC (via Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars}: “”Well, here is what they should start by doing, and that is forcing votes on public policy that is wildly popular in this country, whether it is on gun safety or whether it is minimum wage or the reimportation of prescription drugs,” McCaskill said….”There is a long list of public policy issues that get wide, popular bipartisan support. Tee those up for votes, get those votes first, but let me tell you where it cannot end….Joe Manchin is never going to be beat by a progressive candidate. He’s in a state that Donald Trump won by 40 points. He is an aberration in West Virginia today….”So we only have 50 votes. If Joe Manchin decides to walk to the other side of the aisle, Mitch McConnell is back in charge. We have to win more seats in 2022. So what we can’t do in this process is start a civil war in the Democratic party….”Because if we do, then we see Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and North Carolina all slip from our grasp and we’re in a situation that if something happens with Joe Manchin or if he doesn’t run again, or Jon Testor or any of the other Democrats that are in Republican states, then we’re back with Mitch McConnell calling the shots and we can’t force votes. And so there needs to be a plan here, and it’s not as simple as ‘We can flip Joe Manchin,’ ” she said….”Cause that is a lot harder than you think.”

From “Biden allies eye two-step strategy on infrastructure” by Morgan Chalafant and Alexander Bolton at The Hill: “Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a key ally of President Biden, and several White House advisers want Congress to first move a smaller infrastructure bill in hopes of securing a bipartisan win before trying to address more ambitious goals on climate change and health care in a subsequent measure….Democrats say Biden is eager to get a bipartisan triumph during his first few months in office….“Anything we can do bipartisan is good,” said centrist Sen. Joe Manchin(D-W.Va.), adding that if Biden is talking about breaking up the infrastructure to package to get Republican support, it shows how serious he is about changing the tone in Washington….“If he’s talking like that — I think he’s sincere in that,” Manchin said….There’s long been bipartisan support in Washington for overhauling the nation’s traditional infrastructure system: roads, bridges, rail lines and waterworks….The Senate and House passed by overwhelming margins a $305 billion five-year highway bill in 2015. The sticking point in recent years has been finding a way to pay for infrastructure spending. The White House is mulling raising tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for at least part of its infrastructure bill….But Biden also wants to use his infrastructure agenda to combat global warming, expand access to community colleges and prekindergarten programs, establish a national paid-leave program, modernize schools and weatherize private and public housing.”