washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

“The coronavirus pandemic was the most important issue among California voters in Tuesday’s failed recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), according to exit polling,” Mychael Schnell reports at The Hill. “Roughly one-third of California voters, who overwhelmingly rejected the recall effort, said COVID-19 is the biggest issue for the state, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research cited by CNN….A little more than one-fifth of voters polled said they were most concerned about homelessness, followed by 1 in 6 for both the economy and wildfires and just under a tenth pointing to crime….More than 4 in 10 Democrats said the coronavirus was the most important issue to them, while only about one-fifth of Republicans agreed….Republicans were more than three times as likely as Democrats to cite the economy as their chief concern….When reflecting on the current state of California, roughly 4 in 10 respondents said the situation is improving; 3 in 10 said it remains about the same and just under one-fourth said matters are getting worse….The exit polls also looked at voters’ outlook on the policies Newsom implemented amid the pandemic, which a number of pro-recall individuals pointed to as reasons why they wanted to oust him….Roughly 45 percent of voters polled said the governor’s COVID-19 policies have been about right, while one-third said the regulations were too strict. The rest of the electorate said the rules are not strict enough….Overall, more than 6 in 10 voters said getting inoculated is more of a public health responsibility than a personal choice.”

Amy Walter and Jessica Taylor saw it a little differently at The Cook Political Report: “What helped get Democrats motivated? Elder is likely the biggest reason as his controversial and conservative views on several issues already put him out of step with this deep blue state. But, it was his opposition to vaccine and masking mandates that allowed Newsom to change the narrative — focus more on what Elder was doing wrong than on the terrible Delta summer and the French Laundry incident. Plus, Edler gave Newsom huge gifts in showing exactly how he’d govern differently from the Democratic incumbent — and out of step with the vast majority of the state. None such incident seemed worse than just over a week ago when Elder said on Mark Levin’s radio show that the state’s 88-year-old senior Senator Dianne Feinsten was in “even worse mental condition than Joe Biden and that “they’re afraid I’m going to replace her with a Republican — which I most certainly would do. And that would be an earthquake in Washington, D.C.”….It wouldn’t just be an earthquake if something happened to Feinstein and Elder replaced her with a Republican — it would quite literally tip the balance of power back to the GOP in the Senate. Elder’s also suggested he’d seek to limit legal abortion in the state, which has also ginned up once complacent voters on the heels of the Texas law. Elder has also faced allegations of past sexual harassment (which he denied but then said one woman was not attractive enough to have been harassed).”

Nathaniel Rakich brings the mostly good news at FiveThirtyEight: “As it is every two years, control of the House and Senate will once again be at stake in the November 2022 midterm elections, and one of the best tools we have for predicting those election results is polling of the generic congressional ballot. The generic congressional ballot question typically asks respondents which party they intend to vote for in the upcoming congressional election, without naming specific candidates1 — allowing the question to be asked nationally to gauge the overall political environment. And for several years now, we at FiveThirtyEight have been collecting these polls and calculating a weighted average for them, and we’re excited today to publish our generic ballot average for the 2022 election cycle….As of Thursday, Sept. 16, Democrats lead Republicans in our polling average by 2.7 percentage points (43.8 percent to 41.1 percent). This average is calculated much the same way as our presidential approval-rating average, with a couple of differences. First, the lines we draw for the generic-ballot averages are more aggressively smoothed;2 in other words, they are slower to respond to new data. (Because generic-ballot polls are less common than presidential-approval polls, we’ve found that, to filter out noise, the generic-ballot average needs to incorporate a larger sample of polls stretching further back in time than the presidential-approval average.) Second, while our presidential-approval average prefers the versions of polls that survey the widest universe (i.e., all adults over registered voters, and registered voters over likely voters), our generic-ballot average does the opposite. This is because, while we’re interested in knowing what all Americans think about the president, generic-ballot polls are fundamentally election polls — and we’re interested only in how actual voters are going to vote in the midterms.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “A make-or-break moment for our democracy,” E. J. Dionne writes:“Virtually all Democrats in both houses of Congress understand it would be politically ruinous and historically irresponsible to kick away this opportunity to establish a more equitable social contract. That’s especially true since their initiatives — on child care, paid leave, elder care, health care, education and the pro-family child tax credit — are broadly popular….Two points are often lost. One is about the size of what’s being considered. Yes, the much-discussed $3.5 trillion price tag is a lot of money. But that number is based on 10 years of spending. Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, points out that the $3.5 trillion should be placed in the context of an anticipated gross domestic product of $288 trillion over the same period — meaning that this debate is over roughly 1.2 percent of the economy….That’s hardly a gargantuan investment in social equity and economic stability for tens of millions of our fellow citizens….Moreover, as both Parrott and my Post colleague Catherine Rampell have noted, backers of these programs are not proposing to throw the whole thing onto the national debt. On the contrary, as Rampell reminded us recently, lawmakers voted last month for a maximum deficit increase of about $1.75 trillion, with all or most of the package to be paid for with new revenue and budget savings elsewhere.”

Dionne continues, “The horror of what so many Republican-dominated state governments have done — most recently in Texas — to restrict access to the ballot and undercut the honest and nonpartisan counting of ballots presents Democrats with only two options: Act uncompromisingly at the national level to ensure democracy everywhere, or accept that many states in our union will, in important ways, cease to be democratic….Killing a strong voting rights bill means accepting, to evoke Abraham Lincoln’s declaration on slavery, a nation half-democratic and half undemocratic….Here again, the clarity of the hazard is pushing even reluctant Democrats to action. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said repeatedly that they would not overturn current filibuster rules to enact a voting rights bill….So Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued Manchin a friendly challenge: Offer a proposal that you could vote for and find 10 Republicans to support it….Manchin accepted the challenge, and as soon as this week, a group of Democrats including Manchin and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Raphael G. Warnock (Ga.) could introduce a bill rooted in his ideas….If Manchin can find 10 Republicans to support it, he will deserve canonization for having performed a miracle. If he can’t, will he and Sinema stick with their refusal to alter the filibuster and thus make themselves complicit in the death of a bill as important to democracy in our times as the original Voting Rights Act was in 1965?….Call me naive, but I do not believe that Manchin, Sinema and Biden want to be associated in history with those who failed to stand up for democracy at the hour of maximum danger. In a little over a month, we’ll know where they stand.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein argues that “The California Recall Could Be a Road Map for Democrats: Gavin Newsom’s strategy has momentum, and it provides a crucial template for his fellow Dems in 2022,” and observes that “the large number of mail ballots already returned by Democratic voters, as well as the latest poll results, signal that Newsom has mostly closed that enthusiasm gap, placing himself in a strong position to defeat the recall when balloting concludes next Tuesday. And he has done so in a manner that could provide a crucial template for Democrats nationwide in 2022: Newsom has focused less on selling his accomplishments than on raising alarms that his Republican opponents will exacerbate the coronavirus pandemic by repealing the public-health protections, such as vaccine and mask mandates, that he has imposed to fight it. He’s linked the GOP candidates running to replace him not only to Donald Trump but also to Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, who have blocked mandates and other measures to combat the disease….“People are rightfully freaked out at the Delta variant. They are angry at people who refuse to get vaccinated, and extremely angry at leaders who enable anti-vaxxers to endanger everyone else,” says Nathan Click, the spokesperson for the anti-recall campaign. “They see what’s going on in Texas, they see what’s going on in Florida, and they don’t want that happening here.”….These strategies show that Democratic candidates—albeit in blue-leaning states that all rank near the top in vaccination rates—are moving more forcefully than President Joe Biden to pressure the remaining roughly one-fourth of American adults who have refused to get vaccinated. The emphatic embrace of mask and vaccine mandates by Newsom, McAuliffe, and Murphy reflects a growing consensus in the party that the majority of Americans who have received at least one shot are receptive to tougher measures on those who have not.”

From “The Texas county that explains why Republicans are terrified: Demographic shifts in places like Fort Bend mean the GOP is desperate to pass its extreme agenda while it can” by Sam Levine at The Guardian: “Since 2010, the population in Fort Bend county has just exploded. Last year, the census counted 822,779 people living here, a staggering 40% increasefrom a decade ago. It’s part of the metro and suburban growth that helped Texas’s population grow by 16% over the last decade, making it one of the fastest-growing places in the US….The county is also now extremely diverse; it is nearly 32% white, 25% Hispanic or Latino, 21% Asian and 21.3% Black….“​​Fort Bend county is probably the most ethnically diverse county in the United States,” Stephen L Klineberg, the founding director of Kinder Institute for Urban Research, who closely studies the demographics of the Houston area, told me. “And so it’s a perfect model for what the American future [will look like].”….The population isn’t the only thing that’s changing – the politics are too. In 2012, Mitt Romney handily won the county over Barack Obama by about 10 points. But in 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by six points. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke won the county in his US Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. Biden carried the county in 2020….“​​There’s been explosive growth in the suburbs of Texas and that is driving through the change in politics that is creating this kind of last hurrah kind of thing for people like [Texas Lieutenant Governor] Dan Patrick, and Governor Abbott and others that are trying to get as many conservative things as they can possibly get done. Because it’s not a reflection of the population and where the population is headed,” Tameez said….Klineberg, the demographer, added that there was no way for Republicans to stop the kind of demographic change happening in Fort Bend county. “The Republicans see the handwriting on the wall,” he said.”

Political Strategy Notes

For an understanding of the effects of the current round of congressional redistricting, which is still underway, it would be hard to do better than the extensive analysis by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman, who write in “Redistricting in America, Part Eight: A Quick Summation of a Long Series” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Dear Readers: This is the eighth part of our multi-part series on congressional redistricting. Part One provided a national overview, Part Two covered several small-to-medium-sized states in the Greater South, Part Three looked at four larger states in the South, Part Four considered the West Coast and the Southwest, Part Five swept through a sampling of Great Plains and Heartland states, Part Six surveyed the electorally-critical Great Lakes region, and Part Seven finishedthe national tour in the Northeast. This week, we’ll conclude with some broader thoughts, though with several states already releasing draft maps, look for more redistricting-related content in the coming months….There are six states — Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming — that have only one member of the House, and thus won’t need to redistrict. These states are all safe for the incumbent party for the foreseeable future, with the possible exception of Alaska, where Rep. Don Young (R, AK-AL), the Dean of the House, has had some close-ish races in recent years.” Kondik and Coleman provide capsule takes for the other 44 states, based on available data and conclude in “an overall, general assessment” that: “We’ve said before that the Republicans were favored to win the House majority next year, both because of redistricting and also because of the usual midterm trend that breaks against the party in the White House, among other factors. Following the completion of this redistricting preview, we have not changed our view on that….We did our own back-of-the-envelope projections of the House and anticipated some aggressive (but not maximally aggressive) gerrymandering by both Republicans and Democrats, where applicable. We also assumed a somewhat neutral political environment, which very well may not end up being the case – in all likelihood, Joe Biden’s currently net-negative approval rating needs to rebound for there to be even a neutral environment next year as opposed to a Republican-leaning one….Anyway, we got a GOP net gain of roughly a dozen seats, more than the five-seat improvement they need from the 2020 results to win the House majority. This is a deliberately modest outlook, and Republicans could easily blow past it next year, while there are also scenarios under which Democrats are able to minimize those GOP gains and perhaps even save their majority. But our default expectation has been, and remains, a Republican House takeover next year.”

From Amy Walter’s “Intensity of Opposition to Biden Rises, Solid Support Drops in August” at The Cook Political Report: “There’s been a lot of focus lately on President Biden’s sagging approval ratings. After a pretty steady (and positive) six months, Biden’s overall job approval ratings slid over the summer — especially August. At the beginning of May, Biden’s job approval rating in the FiveThirtyEight average was 54 percent to 41.1 percent disapproval (+12.9). By early July, his net job approval was down 4 points to +9.8. By early August, the net approval was down another 2 points to +8. Today, Biden is barely above water at 48.3 percent to 46.1 percent (+2.2)….But, what should be more worrisome for Biden (and Democrats overall), is that the intensity of opposition to the president is also on the rise, while strong approval has dropped. In fact, for the first time, recent polling shows net strong disapproval of Biden at a nearly equal level to that of former president Trump at this point in his tenure…..Why does this matter?….Elections, especially midterms, are driven by enthusiasm. And, the party out of power is almost always much more motivated to vote than the party in power. Most recently, we saw this mismatch in voter intensity in 2018 when Democrats turned out in force to send a message to a president they deeply disliked.”

Re those approval rate declines, check out Laura Clawson’s post, “Majority say Biden’s policies haven’t helped them. $1,400 stimulus checks are surprised to hear it at Daily Kos for some good Democratic talking points. As Clawson writes, “President Joe Biden’s declining approval ratings come despite the popularity of his signature policies, a new report from Civiqs shows. In fact, seven of 12 Biden policies surveyed by Civiqs have majority support and another three have plurality support from the public. But “Although item by item, Biden’s agenda is popular, most Americans (57%) do not feel that they have personally benefited from Biden’s policies. Indeed, many voters (45%) feel that they have been personally harmed by the Biden administration. Just 37% of Americans say that the Biden administration has done anything to help them personally.” Clawson shares some bullet points, including: “Around 159 million households got checks, most of them for $1,400, from the American Rescue Plan, which Biden ran on and pushed hard to get through Congress….The households of more than 65 million children got the American Rescue Plan’s expanded child tax credit, which sent $250 a month to children 6 and over and $300 a month to younger children. Millions of households also got expanded child care assistance….The American Rescue Plan increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits until September … and then, the Biden administration made changes to the overall program that will increase assistance for all 42 million beneficiaries on a continuing basis….Those are extremely direct benefits flowing to tens of millions of U.S. households. But let’s say you personally did not get a direct payment from a plan advanced by President Biden. What about you? (Is it all about you?) Well, it turns out there’s a damn good chance you, too, benefited from something he did.”

Clawson continues: “Schools received $122 billion in funding. Maybe that money is going to educating your kids. Maybe you don’t have kids in school. You know what? Even so, it’s helping protect your community from the pandemic by keeping kids and teachers safe in the schools. It’s helping your local economy by preventing job losses in education….The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provided $28.6 billion to 101,000 restaurants. Even if that didn’t save your job, it might have saved your favorite restaurant….The Biden administration invested tens of billions of dollars in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and other mitigation strategies, helping to control the pandemic for all of us….Biden brought the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement, the first step in fighting the climate change that will threaten millions of lives in the coming years….Biden withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan, doing the right thing and ending a massive ongoing expense for a nation in which politicians always claim that there’s no money to help people while always finding the money to pay for wars….Biden has cancelled $9.5 billion in student debt. There’s much, much more to be done, and he should be doing it. But what he has done affects hundreds of thousands of people….Oh, and then there was that little, small, minor vaccination effort. Maybe you’re not on SNAP. Maybe you weren’t unemployed at any point since March. Maybe your income is too high for you to have gotten a relief check or the expanded child tax credit, and maybe you don’t care that your local schools and economy and restaurants benefited. But hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated, which is not only keeping those people safe from serious illness or death but also keeping hospitals from being even more overwhelmed than they already are….So, me? I don’t think Joe Biden is perfect. Far from it. But I know damn well that I’ve benefited from his presidency in direct, personal ways.” All of which leads to the conclusion that it’s great to have popular policies, but you really do have to remind voters.

Political Strategy Notes

Chandelis Duster reports at CNN Politics that “Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar called for immediate action from Democrats in the wake of the US Supreme Court allowing Texas’ restrictive abortion law to stand and said the filibuster should be abolished in order to codify abortion rights protections….”Now and over the next years, we just will get nowhere if we keep this filibuster in place,” the Minnesota Democrat, who has previously come out against ending the filibuster to address issues like voting rights and climate change, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday….”I do not believe an archaic rule should be used to allow us to put our heads in the sand — to use Justice (Sonia) Sotomayor’s words — to put our heads in the sand and not take action on the important issues,” Klobuchar said, calling the Texas law and the Supreme Court’s response “an assault on women’s health.” Duster notes that “even if a bill on the issue were to pass in the House it is likely to face hurdles in the Senate where Democrats hold a narrow majority and 60 votes are required to break the filibuster. There is no indication 10 Republican senators would side with them on the issue.” While Klobuchar has supported abolishing the filibuster before, she may be amplifying her support for it, now that the lines on reproductive rights are more starkly drawn on the Supreme Court. As one of the most influential Senators of the Democratic center-left, Klobuchar will be a key player in filibuster reform, if and when Dems near the actual senate majority threshold on the issue. The moral argument for filibuster reform was strong based on voting right alone, long before the High Court ruling on Texas abortions. A potentially-powerful coalition for filibuster reform composed of women’s and voting rights advocates at both the state and national levels looks increasingly like an idea whose time is arriving.

Voting rights and pro-choice activists have generally supported each other’s causes, verbally in the past. But could a more formal coalition lead by the two groups have a more significant impact? Instead of just giving verbal assent to each other’s causes, what might happen if the two groups took a more synergistic approach and pooled resources, engaged in joint media events, fund-raising and stepped up joint lobbying? For too long, pro-democratic groups have focused narrowly on their particular reform projects, often with limited results. Imagine what could happen, for example, if Sens. Sinema and Manchin had to frequently meet with voting and reproductive rights activists in their home and Washington offices. Martin Luther King, Jr. provided some useful guidelines for the creation of such productive alliances: “A true alliance is based upon some self-interest of each component group and a common interest into which they merge. For an alliance to have permanence and loyal commitment from its various elements, each of them must have a goal from which it benefits and none must have an outlook in basic conflict with the others….If we employ the principle of selectivity along these lines, we will find millions of allies who in serving themselves also support us, and on such sound foundations unity and mutual trust and tangible accomplishment will flourish….But the scope of struggle is still too narrow and too restricted. We must turn more of our energies and focus our creativity on the useful things that translate into power.”

As with many issues, you can cherry-pick polls on abortion and frame questions to score points for either side. But the national polling evidence that the Texas legislature has gone too far in restricting abortions of compelling. As Amelia Thomson-Deveaux writes at FiveThirtyEight, “According to the polling we have now, the answer is far from clear. On the one hand, a majority of Americans have consistently said that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion, should not be overturned. But many also support a wide range of specific restrictions on abortion, some of which contradict the Supreme Court’s standards for when and how states can regulate the procedure. That said, public opinion hasn’t really shifted on the issue even though abortion access has steadily eroded in wide swaths of the country over the past 10 years. But the fact that the Texas law directly attacks abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy — when the procedure is both most supported and most common — could galvanize public outrage in a way that past restrictions have not…For decades, Americans have broadly opposed overturning Roe v. Wade — despite escalating attempts by anti-abortion advocates to turn public opinion against legal abortion. As the chart below shows, 58 percent of Americans were against overturning Roe when Gallup last asked the question in May, the same share who wanted to keep the case on the books back in 1989….According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, 19 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, while almost twice as many (32 percent) think it should be legal in all circumstances. But most (48 percent) fall in between, saying it should be legal only under certain circumstances….while Texas and other states have imposed plenty of other restrictions on abortion, this will cut off access significantly earlier than any other restriction since Roe was decided almost 50 years ago. And that’s the key distinction. Up until now, abortion restrictions have been fairly slow and piecemeal. But now women in Texas have lost access to abortion in most cases essentially overnight.”

You google ‘Labor Day,” and it’s depressing how many of the entries that pop up address store closings and grilling tips, and how few focus on the challenges facing workers, their families and the future of the labor movement. Many people probably don’t even know that the AFL-CIO has a new president, Liz Shuler – the first woman to lead the Federation and speak for America’s workers. At Politico, Eleanor Mueller reports on Shuler’s background and explores her vision. An excerpt: “Shuler is the organization’s first female leader, a historic moment for organized labor in the U.S. She will serve as the nation’s top union official until summer 2022, when the AFL-CIO’s 50-plus affiliates can gather for their annual convention to vote on a permanent successor….Shuler — who confirmed she will run for reelection in 2022 — said in an interview she hoped her appointment “signals that the labor movement is modernizing, and open to reflecting the change that’s happening with our country,” adding that “it is time for women to step up into leadership.”….”That’s what I hope to reflect: the hard work, dedication and tenacity of women all across this country and workplaces who are toiling behind the scenes and also leading strikes and picketlines, and for them to see their rightful place in this movement,” she said….Shuler’s confirmation comes at a crucial time for the federation and its 12 million members. With the union membership rate about half what it was in the 1980s, the organization is at a crossroads: Leadership must decide whether to maintain Trumka’s near-laser focus on passing the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or to step into a broader role in support of the labor movement by pouring resources into building membership….”The most important thing we could be focusing on is unity,” Shuler said. “We have these 56 different unions around the table with different ideas and perspectives and cultures and opinions, and it’s our job to unify that into a force that’s undeniable for the rights and protections of working people in this country. We know that we can do that.” Restoring the strength of the labor movement should be a top priority for Democrats, who have benefitted from union contributions and political activism. Shuler brings both experience and a long-overdue focus on women’s issues in the workplace to help mobilize the new generation of America’s workers.

Political Strategy Notes

Amy Walter shares a warning in “An Update on the California Recall” at The Cook Political Report.” Walter writes that “the latest fivethirtyeight.com polling average shows “No” on the recall only slightly ahead of “Yes” to recall 50.6 percent to 46.3 percent….While Democrats are unified in opposition to the recall, they are much less interested in voting than Republicans. For example, a mid-July survey from UC Berkeley-IGS found 91 percent of Democrats opposed to the recall. An early August YouGov/CBS poll found Democratic opposition at 85 percent. As a point of comparison, a PPIC poll taken two months before the 2003 Gray Davis recall found just 56 percent of Democrats opposed to recalling the Democratic governor. However, in both the UC Berkeley-IGS and YouGov/CBS surveys, Democratic enthusiasm to vote lagged behind GOP support for the recall. In the UC-Berkeley survey, 93 percent of Trump voters, but only 76 percent of Biden voters said they were very interested in voting in the recall. In the CBS/YouGov survey, 72 percent of Republicans but just 61 percent of Democrats said they were “very motivated to vote” on September 14.” Walter adds, “Turns out that conditions on both COVID and wildfires worsened much earlier than expected. The Delta resurgence and fears of another economic gut punch to the state provide a ripe environment for the recall. Angry and frustrated people vote. Disillusioned ones don’t.” However, walter concludes, “This race is still Newsom/No on Recall’s to lose. Newsom and Democrats have the advantages of registration, money and organization, but the Yes forces/GOP have the benefit of an energized base and a more favorable political environment than they’ve had in the previous couple of years. We are moving the race from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic. This isn’t to say that the race has suddenly become more competitive this week. It’s more to say that the race REMAINS competitive with just over two weeks to go.”

Will the Supreme Court decision trashing reproductive rights in Texas spark a new campaign to expand the size of the high court? Probably not. But it should. Women’s rights activists are rightly worried that the Republican justices are ready to green light the hard right’s all-out assault on what’s left of Roe v. Wade. Of course there were good reasons to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court even before this latest ruling, including concerns about voting rights and worker rights and a broad range of social and economic issues. From “Trump’s Supreme Court just showed why court-packing is necessary to save U.S. democracy: Law professor Stephen Feldman explains why court-packing should be defended on both moral and political grounds” by Amanda Marcotte at salon.com: “University of Wyoming law professor Stephen Feldman, however, thinks now is the perfect time to revive the discussion, arguing that court-packing is a vital necessity to save our democracy….In his new book “Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion,” Feldman argues that not only is court expansion politically wise, it also fits in with a long history of seeing the courts not as separate from politics, but working within a political system.’ Feldman adds, “The Roberts court is extremely conservative and that’s even before Justice Ginsburg passed away and the Republicans rushed through the confirmation of Justice Barrett. They keep handing down very conservative decisions, one after another. And really the only way to counter that is the court-packing….Let’s say somehow the Democrats did pass some type of voting rights protections, a new statute protecting voting rights. The odds are extremely high that this court would find some way to strike down that voting rights legislation….I don’t think anything is likely to happen right now unless the filibuster were eliminated. What needs to happen is the filibuster needs to go.” Of course, Democrats have the Mancin/Sinema opposition to killing the filibuster. But what would happen if politically-moderate women in West Virginia and Arizona organize to compel Sens. Mancin and Sinema to reconsider, now that it’s clear that the GOP’s ill-gotten high court majority is ready to reverse a half-century of consensus on reproductive rights?

At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner shares a ‘calm down everyone’ balm in his article, “How Much Trouble Is Biden In? The picture is likely to look better in a few months’ time.” Regarding the decline of Biden’s approval rates, Kuttner notes, “Even after the ignominious collapse, an AP poll on August 19 found that 62 percent of Americans believed that the Afghan War had not been worth fighting. And since it was Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, who commenced the troop drawdown and committed plans for total withdrawal by mid-2021, it’s not likely that the current debacle will do lasting damage….According to an August 17 Ipsos poll, 64 percent of Americans support their state or local government requiring masks to be worn in public spaces, and that includes 44 percent of Republicans. Fully 69 percent support such mandates for teachers and students, and two-thirds oppose state prohibitions on local mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the champion of such prohibitions, may be a hero to the conservative base, but broad public opinion is moving away from him….There is wide support for most of Biden’s policies, and Biden is seen as likable. The puzzle is why more of this doesn’t rub off on Biden. But polls bounce around and are known for anomalies and cognitive inconsistencies….I don’t have a crystal ball, but it seems to me that six months from now, as we begin the midterm election year, Biden will be looking pretty good. The internal splits between the progressives and the Gang of Nine will get nastier; and primary season will enflame these tensions. At the same time, neither the left nor the center wants to be responsible for destroying Biden’s core agenda. At the end of the day, even as soon as October, some version of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation is likely to pass….by early 2022, most Americans will have had their booster shots, and people will have adjusted to a new normal of intermittent masks and great care with indoor events. It beats dying. Public opinion on the management of the pandemic is likely to be on Biden’s side….And in 2022, the fissures in the Republican Party, both ideological and personal, will be more in evidence. Trump will not be on the ballot; that could be a plus or a minus. But he will do useful damage in ousting electable Republicans in swing districts.” However, Kuttner warns, “If we don’t get voting rights, Biden and his program could be popular, but the Republicans aided by the Supreme Court could still steal the 2022 election and the future of our democracy.” Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

At The Washington Monthly, Luisa S. Deprez explains “How Republicans Stoke Anti-Government Hatred: Tearing down faith in the common good has helped the GOP for years, but it’s killing the country.” As Deprez writes, “In At War with Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump  (Columbia University Press, 2021), [Amy] Fried and [Douglas B.] Harris provide a powerful exegesis of American politics and explain how conservative elites have cultivated a toxic distrust of government. This is not a traditional conservative argument about levels of spending and taxation or American commitments abroad. It means playing on the fears of citizens that their government is corrupt, undemocratic, elitist and their enemy. This, they contend, is “the fundamental strategy of conservative Republican politics.” It relies “on public dissatisfaction to build their movement, to win elections, to engage in separation-of-powers conflicts, and to thwart liberal policy advances.” Sometimes leaders struggle to control those they roused. Sometimes they egg them on. And whether implicit or overt, racism and xenophobia are essential components to these efforts….Fried and Harris contend that the weaponization of distrust undermines Americans’ ability to achieve collective goals. Michael Sandel, who teaches political philosophy at Harvard echoes that sentiment: “Any hope of renewing our moral and civic life depends on understanding how, over … decades, our social bonds and respect for one another came unraveled.” The charge, he says, is “to find our way to a politics of the common good.”…Unlike most books of this sort, Fried and Harris trace a path forward, presenting suggestions for countering Republicans’ promotion of political distrust. There are ways to “make peace with government” they argue, even after questioning whether the partisan polarization is reversible and racial animus can soften….The Biden administration is promoting plans that leave no one untouched. These strategies are bold, daring, and expansive. Now, political leaders and activists must be intentional in the message they deliver to the American public—these are public, governmental efforts. “

Political Strategy Notes

Among the reasons why Democrats may not lose their House  and Senate majorities, according to John Harwood at CNN Politics: “Earlier this year, Biden’s political team dismissed old patterns as irrelevant to the unique backdrop for his presidency: a once-in-a-century pandemic, the world’s largest economy turned off and then back on again, a violent insurrection incited by a historically divisive, defeated President. Swift passage of Covid relief spending, a quick vaccination ramp-up, and resurgent growth helped keep Biden consistently above the 50% approval mark Donald Trump never reached….Biden’s advantages haven’t entirely vanished. His economic advisers last week forecast 2021 economic growth of 7%. The Census recorded a higher-than-expected increase in the non-white population, which favors Democrats politically….The unpopular ex-President remains at the center of Republican politics. While Trump has a weak track record for lifting Republican candidates when he’s not on the ballot, he helps motivate Democratic voters….In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden hailed House passage of his economic investment framework before addressing evacuation efforts in Kabul. His pandemic response team pressed businesses and other institutions to overcome lingering resistance by mandating vaccinations for employment and services.”

Harwood continues, “The political value of those efforts, aside from their merits for public health and economic vitality, is in unifying the Democratic electoral coalition while Republicans aim to splinter it with cultural wedge issues. Their longshot hopes of surviving in power next November depend on maximizing unity….”Winning a midterm is extremely difficult,” said David Shor, an influential Democratic strategist. “Big picture, the Biden administration is making all the right strategic decisions….Other elements involve spending on longer-term projects such as improving roads and bridges and expanding early childhood education. If Democrats manage to enact them, near-term political credit turns on how much public attention they receive by Election Day…..”It’s just a question of how much the media decides to cover it,” Shor observed….To the White House and Democratic leaders, the critical variable is action. Mobilizing bare majorities to break through years of stalemate, they say, can give Democrats a fighting chance despite the President’s political bruises….”Victories that help real people — working families and small businesses,” the Biden adviser said. “Not about what we want to do, about what we’ve done.”

Also at CNN Politics, Gregory Krieg takes a deep dive and explains that “Biden is holding together the Democratic Party in Washington — for now,” and writes, “That the fates of the two bills, one championed by moderate Democrats and the other by progressives, are tied together is in itself a neat metaphor for the broader dynamic influencing the party’s path in the Biden era, as it seeks to show it can deliver for the American people ahead of next year’s midterms. Neither package has enough support to pass in the House of Representatives without disparate factions of Democrats agreeing to vote for legislation they would not, under other circumstances, be inclined to back. Democrats are, in sum, doing the work of a coalition government — the kind of fraught, patchwork majority more typically found in the parliamentary democracies of Western Europe….To advance any and all pieces of their shared agenda, Democrats need unanimity in their Senate ranks and can only afford to lose a handful of votes in the House….After the agreement was in place, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, summed up the fundamental political incentives that carried the day. “The most important thing is, as Democrats, we remain united behind the objectives that have been set by President Biden,” Jeffries said. “Democracy is messy, and Democrats are not a cult, we’re a coalition….The oddsmakers’ favorite to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in leading the Democratic caucus if she retires in the coming years, Jeffries, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has often flown the moderate flag on the front lines of the intra-party electoral fights. Some have played out in parallel to Democrats’ work in Washington….But even as the left lines up its challengers and moderates prepare to launch a well-funded counteroffensive, they were ultimately pushing for the same legislative outcome on Capitol Hill, even if they used different methods and messages — including outside attacks against each other — to get there.”

Krieg adds, “The larger, partisan bill that will need to be passed through the budget reconciliation process, would — according to its early framework — create a universal pre-K program for 3- and 4-year-olds, offer new child care benefits to working families and, for the first time, eventually provide a federal guarantee of paid parental, family and personal illness leave. In addition to measures designed to curb climate change and invest in affordable housing, it would also increase subsidies for Obamacare and, after so many years of debate and advocacy, lower prescription drug prices and expand Medicare — lowering the eligibility age while beefing up the popular program to include dental, vision and hearing benefits….Taken together, the legislation would represent the largest and most consequential expansion of aid and protections to the social safety net in a generation. For many on the left, it also amounts to a marker of the movement’s growing influence….Though progressives still lag other factions of the party in terms of representation in Congress, Biden and his team have, since he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee in 2020, worked relentlessly to build a working relationship with the left and its energetic base….Sanders, his closest competitor and the final rival to fall on Biden’s late surge to the nomination, has returned the favor. Ascending to the chair of the Senate Budget Committee after the Democrats, with whom he caucuses, won their Senate majority, Sanders has worked closely with the White House, even as some of his top campaign priorities, like “Medicare for all,” have been sidelined….The White House, in turn, has provided a backstop for progressives during the push to get both of the party’s legislative priorities over the line. When the group of nine Democrats demanding an immediate House vote on the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill said Biden shared their desire, the White House knocked them back….”(Biden) has been clear that he wants both bills on his desk and that he looks forward to signing each,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told NBC News on Monday, adding that the President supported Pelosi’s broader approach to steering the White House agenda….Democrats — whose majority is only as useful as their near unanimity — appear to be on a path to fulfilling Biden’s ambitious framework. The party has shown, to date, that it can be both in “disarray” and a functioning operation — and that the imperative to act, in coalition, appears to be winning the day.”

Political Strategy Notes

Alan I. Abramowitz explains “How Donald Trump Turned Off Swing Voters in 2020” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “It is clear that there are far fewer swing voters today than only 20 or 30 years ago. However, swing voters have not disappeared, and they can still play a crucial role in elections. In 2016, for example, although there weren’t many swing voters, there were about three times as many Obama-Trump voters as Romney-Clinton voters. That was probably enough to swing Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to Trump and hand him a victory in the Electoral College.[1]….In 2020, there were even fewer swing voters than in 2016. However, it appears that swing voters favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by about a two-to-one margin. Moreover, exit poll data confirm that swing voters tilted toward Biden in several key swing states. In Georgia, 6% of 2016 Trump voters switched to Biden while only 3% of 2016 Clinton voters switched to Trump. In Pennsylvania, 7% of 2016 Trump voters switched to Biden while only 4% of 2016 Clinton voters switched to Trump. Finally, in both Michigan and Wisconsin, 6% of 2016 Trump voters switched to Biden while only 4% of 2016 Clinton voters switched to Trump.[2] These differences seem small, but given the closeness of the 2020 presidential election in all of these states, they might have been large enough to shift their electoral votes from Trump to Biden and that would have been enough to change the outcome of the election in the Electoral College….According to the ANES data, almost twice as many voters flipped from Trump to Biden as from Clinton to Trump — an estimate that is consistent with findings from the national exit poll….Trump was perceived as far more conservative in 2020 than in 2016. In 2016, Trump was viewed as the least conservative Republican presidential candidate since Gerald Ford in 1976. In 2020, however, he was viewed as the most conservative Republican candidate in the history of this question in the ANES survey going back to 1972. This shift was significant in that it placed Trump farther from the average voter than Joe Biden, while in 2016 Trump was considerably closer to the average voter than Hillary Clinton was….The dramatic shift to the right in voters’ perceptions of Trump almost certainly contributed to his losses among moderate swing voters in the 2020 presidential election — losses that could well have cost him enough electoral votes to hand the election to Joe Biden….A variety of factors undoubtedly contributed to Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020, including his gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the growing perception of Trump as a far-right president, along with the nomination of the relatively moderate Joe Biden by the Democrats, very likely cost him enough support among swing voters in key states such as Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona to shift those states and their crucial electoral votes into the Democratic column….More generally, the analyses presented in this essay show that while swing voters make up a much smaller share of the electorate today than during the 1970s and 1980s, they can still affect the outcomes of closely contested elections.”

In “The Bill That Could Truly, Actually Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing: And help the climate, too,” Robinson Meyer writes at The Atlantic: “The U.S. doesn’t have a high-end manufacturing sector because nobody will finance one. Small and medium-size American companies now struggle to borrow the billions of dollars necessary to finance a new factory, especially if those loans take 10 or 20 years to pay out….“The U.S. financial system isn’t very good at funding things that have very modest returns and take a long time for those returns to be realized,” Nahm said. You could be the most talented engineer of your generation and launch an advanced battery start-up out of MIT, he said, and you would still battle to obtain the $3 billion needed to finance a new production line. More established firms cannot access “patient capital” either, he said: Where they once would have borrowed from local banks, many of those institutions have since been absorbed into national chains….”For years, the solution to the manufacturing gap has been clear to experts like Nahm: The U.S. government needs to fix this market failure, just as it fixes others. Yet that possibility seemed off the table. But recently industrial policy has become more popular across parties—Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, has spoken favorably of it—and now a group of moderate Democratic senators, led by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, has proposed chartering an Industrial Finance Corporation, a bank owned by the U.S. government that would fill the “manufacturing gap” and finance high-tech production nationwide….The IFC would have the ability to make long-term loans, buy equity, and make purchase guarantees for firms. It could do for climate-essential technologies—such as clean energy, semiconductors, batteries, and long-distance electricity transmission—what Operation Warp Speed did for COVID-19 vaccines. It could accelerate what I’ve called the “green vortex,” the mix of policy, finance, and technology that is actually driving American decarbonization.”

“As a fourth wave of the coronavirus surges, Americans by a wide margin say protecting the common good is more important than ensuring personal liberty when considering whether to require people to get a COVID-19 vaccination or wear a protective mask,” Susan Page and Nada Hassanein report at USA Today. “An overwhelming 72%-28% of those surveyed by USA TODAY and Ipsos called mask mandates “a matter of health and safety,” not an infringement on personal liberty. By 61%-39%, they endorsed requiring vaccinations except for those with a medical or religious exemption….By more than 2-1, 70%-30%, Americans agreed that people have the right to choose not to get the vaccine but that they then don’t have the right to be around the vaccinated. There was significant support for businesses, employers, colleges, restaurants, airlines and others to bar those who hadn’t gotten the shot….The poll found broad backing for tough steps against those who were eligible to get the vaccine but declined:

  • 66% supported state and local governments requiring masks.
  • 62% supported employers requiring workers to get the vaccination.
  • 68% supported businesses refusing service to the unvaccinated.
  • 65% supported a ban on the unvaccinated traveling by airplane or mass transit.
  • 65% supported sporting events and concerts barring the unvaccinated.
  • 71% said colleges had a right to require students to be vaccinated to return to campus.”

In her article, “Forget AOC—Pelosi Has a Problem With Raging Moderates Now,” Margaret Carlson writes at The Daily Beast: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a well-known problem with her left wing, often needing to talk, and press, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad off the wall and back into the fold….Now she’s dealing with a new problem with her fuselage. It’s her moderates that she can’t fly without. They’re not alright and are no longer quietly going along with the program. Nine of them formed a group and last weekend splashed their objections to the speaker holding traditional infrastructure hostage to the human kind across the op-ed page of The Washington Post, publicly telling her: Let’s take the win. Let’s do infrastructure first.…The system works best for Pelosi’s generation of Democrats when the left dreams and the moderates quietly pursue the middle ground. Moderates generally don’t form little groups to torment the speaker or announce their non-negotiable demands. They like a closed door. If they cause trouble, with rare exceptions, it’s the good kind John Lewis spoke of, not the kind that imperils party unity. These Democrats are pragmatists, stitching messy coalitions together even when the seams show. Many belong to the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that marks them as boring do-gooders of the kind that makes Biden’s eyes misty with nostalgia and cable bookers’ eyes glaze over….But going forward, Pelosi will have to work her magic on a new flank. Listen to Bill Galston, a co-founder of the Problem Solvers Caucus, after the deal: “The Nine have finally broken the complete stranglehold that congressional leadership, on both sides, have had over the legislative process for a decade or more. But while the Nine won an important battle, the war is still to come.”….That doesn’t sound like a truce is being called, yet never have Democrats been more in need of all getting along to hold on to their slim majority in 2022—a prospect that is hard historically and harder still after a summer that’s been anything but the return to normalcy we expected….Ensuring the visible infrastructure will pass, not freighted with the more difficult, as yet unfinished, human one, gets Democrats a much-needed win to take home to voters. Pelosi—I hope Biden’s called the White House florist or offered her recurring guest privileges at Camp David—pulled it out one more time but it’s just gotten harder going forward.”

Political Strategy Notes

From Tal Axelrod’s “Democrats Scramble to Reclaim Lost Ground in statehouse Battles” at The Hill:  “How Democrats Scramble”Democrats are licking their wounds and looking to cobble together a new strategy for success in state legislative races after failing to flip a single chamber throughout the entire country last year. Those defeats are particularly stinging now as Republicans are left in control of redistricting for 187 House districts, while Democrats will have full control to delineate jus…“This is not a scenario where you show up in the last election of the decade to try to flip a chamber,” said Texas state Rep. Trey Martínez Fischer (D). “You spend a decade committing yourself to flipping a chamber in a particular state, and you don’t give up. You don’t play the short game on this, this is a long game.t 84….Those defeats stand in stark contrast to the victories Democrats projected in states like Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas. Adding insult to injury, Democrats also ceded both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature….And with redistricting coming just ahead of the 2022 midterms, those losses have Democrats alarmed….“I think it’s devastating,” said Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, which helps Democrats win state legislative races. “If we hold the House in 2022, it will be a structural miracle. Because Democrats failing to flip a single chamber and in fact losing two in 2020 is the kind of thing that will set Congress back decades.”….Democrats have been tantalizingly close in several chambers. The party last year was two seats away from flipping the Arizona state House and Minnesota Senate and nine seats away from flipping the Texas state House, to name a few. Democrats made no headway in Arizona or Texas and won only one seat in Minnesota.”

Here’s a headline that ought to provoke intense discusssion about redistricting in the Lone Star State: “Just 35 Percent of Texas’ Congressional Districts Are Majority-White — Down From 58% in 2010” by Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report. As Walter explains, “Perhaps no state has seen as much demographic change as Texas. Of the states 36 CDs, 13 of them (or just over 35 percent) have a majority white population. Just ten years ago, more than half (58 percent) of the state’s CD’s were majority white….Nowhere has this surge in the population of people of color been more pronounced than Texas’ 3rd CD held by GOP Rep. Van Taylor. Back in 2010, this district, which takes in the fast growing exurbs north of Dallas (such as Plano and McKinney), was 62 percent white. Today, Census data shows that the white population has dropped almost 13 points to 49.8 percent. Leading the surge in population growth in these exurbs were Asian residents who now make up almost a quarter of the population in the district — up from 15 percent just ten years ago….Of the eight CDs that were majority white in 2010 but are not today, all but one (suburban Dallas’ 32nd CD) are represented by Republicans….Notably, six of those eight districts have gotten much more competitive at the presidential level as well. Or, to put it another way, six CDs that looked safely Republican when these lines were last drawn back in 2012, are now either Democratic-leaning or evenly divided. For example, back in 2012 Mitt Romney won GOP Rep. Michael McCaul’s Austin and Houston suburban district by more than 20 points. Last year, however, Donald Trump narrowly carried it by just 1.7 percent.”

“The vaccinated, across party lines, have kind of had it with the unvaccinated, an array of new polls suggests,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “While most state and national GOP leaders are focused on defending the rights of unvaccinated Americans, new polling shows that the large majority of vaccinated adults—including a substantial portion of Republicans—support tougher measures against those who have refused COVID-19 shots….These new results, shared exclusively with The Atlantic by several pollsters, reveal that significant majorities of people who have been vaccinated support vaccine mandates for health workers, government employees, college students, and airline travelers—even, in some surveys, for all Americans or all private-sector workers. Most of the vaccinated respondents also say that entry to entertainment and sporting arenas should require proof of vaccination, and half say the same about restaurants….All of this suggests that as the Delta variant’s “pandemic of the unvaccinated” disrupts the return to “normal” life promised by the vaccines, a backlash may be intensifying among those who have received the shots against those who have not. And that could leave Republican leaders who have unstintingly stressed the rights of the unvaccinated—including Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—in an exposed position….About 85 percent of Democrats and just over half of Republicans have been vaccinated, according to a recent survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which is conducting monthly polls about experiences and attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccines….But big majorities of the vaccinated in both parties assigned responsibility to the unvaccinated; almost two in three vaccinated Republicans joined nearly nine in 10 vaccinated Democrats in blaming them for the case rise. By contrast, less than one in 14 of the Republicans who hadn’t received the shot blamed the unvaccinated. (In this survey, like most of those I examined, the group of unvaccinated Democrats was too small to reliably analyze.)

Brownstein continues, “The COVID States Project’s national polling has found the broadest support for mandates: In its latest survey, 63 percent of vaccinated Republicans, as well as 95 percent of vaccinated Democrats and 65 percent of unvaccinated Democrats, supported government action “requiring everyone” to obtain a vaccination. Unvaccinated Republicans stood isolated in their opposition; just 14 percent supported such a sweeping mandate….When Kaiser recently asked whether “the federal government should recommend that employers” require their workers to get vaccinated, four-fifths of vaccinated Democrats and nearly half of vaccinated Republicans agreed that it should. But nearly nine in 10 unvaccinated Republicans disagreed (as did about six in 10 unvaccinated Democrats)….Quinnipiac University found similar patterns when it recently tested attitudes toward a broad range of vaccine and mask requirements. Among vaccinated Democrats, at least 85 percent backed vaccine mandates for government workers, university students, health-care workers, and all private-sector employees; well over 80 percent backed proof-of-vaccination requirements for flying or entering large arenas; and 90 percent or more backed mask requirements for public-school students and staff, as well as for participants in indoor activities in high-risk areas. (Seventy percent of vaccinated Democrats also backed proof-of-vaccination requirements for restaurants.)” Brownstein concludes, “Biden, who has generally muted issues that might spark culture-war confrontations, has clearly been reluctant to test the public’s tolerance for more coercive measures to pressure unvaccinated individuals to receive a vaccine. But if the virus continues to find a safe harbor primarily in Republican-leaning states with low vaccination rates and lax public-health protections, he may eventually have no choice but to enter that fight.”

Political Strategy Notes

Yesterday the TDS staff post noted some of the recent polling about the U.S. withdrawall from Afghanistan. At MSNBC, Steve Benen shares some more polling on the topic. “On Monday, the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll found support for withdrawal had dropped sharply compared to April’s results, but a plurality nevertheless sided with Biden’s position: 49% backed the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, while 39% did not. The poll was conducted while Americans confronted a weekend of headlines about the Taliban returning to power….The latest findings from Data for Progress pointed in a similar direction. ‘New polling from Data for Progress shows that voters still support President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, even after learning that Taliban fighters have captured these cities. Voters support the decision to withdraw by a 14-point margin, including Democrats by a 51-point margin, Independents by a 13-point margin, and nearly a third of Republicans.’ Though there were predictable partisan divisions, the overall results found 51% of Americans endorsing the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, while 37% were opposed to the policy. (The poll was conducted between Aug. 13 to 16.)…As NBC News reported overnight, the same survey results found that a 55% majority of the public also supports the Biden administration speeding up the process of giving immigrant visas to U.S. allies in Afghanistan, as opposed to 30% who believe the administration should take no additional action to bring Afghans here….Even a plurality of Republican voters sided with the White House on this issue.”

Benen continues, “In other words, there does not appear to be any kind of backlash against the president’s policy toward Afghanistan. A narrow majority appears to believe Biden’s policies are the right ones, despite the recent unrest and the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul….To be sure, public attitudes can change quickly, and there’s no shortage of unpredictable variables. It’s possible, for example, that support for the president’s agenda could actually grow as the chaotic images fade from view. If operations run relatively smoothly in the coming days and weeks, the likelihood of a public backlash will grow more remote….On the other hand, much of the media coverage in recent days has emphasized bipartisan opposition to Biden’s policy, which often helps shape opinions. Similarly, if conditions in Afghanistan deteriorate further, it’s easy to imagine many Americans souring on the administration’s efforts.”….Andrew Romano reports on the findings of a Yahoo News poll, conducted Aug. 16 to 18, which “found that while 50 percent of respondents said one month ago that they favored the decision to “withdraw all [U.S.] combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of August,” just 40 percent say the same today. Over the same period, opposition to Biden’s plan to withdraw increased from 22 percent to 28 percent….At the same time, more Americans still favor the U.S. withdrawal than oppose it — and there are early signs that the political fallout for the president could be limited in the long run.”

Alexandra Hutzler notes at Newsweek that “A new Reuters poll conducted Monday found Biden’s approval rating dipped to 46 percent nationally, a seven-point decrease from just last Friday when the president enjoyed a 53 percent approval rating….Behind Biden’s sliding approval numbers are independent voters, noted FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley….The Reuters poll found a majority of Americans, 61 percent, still support completing the withdrawal of American troops on schedule. Biden had previously set a deadline of August 31 to remove combat forces from Afghanistan….Most people surveyed, 68 percent, also agreed with the statement that the war in Afghanistan was going to end badly no matter when the U.S. military left….But Biden was rated worse than the other three presidents who presided over the United States’ longest war. Just 44 percent of respondents said the current administration has done a good job presiding over the war. Forty-seven percent thought the Bush administration did a good job, while 51 percent thought the Obama and Trump administrations did a good job.”

At U.S. News, Chris Kahn notes that “A separate Ipsos snap poll, also conducted on Monday, found that fewer than half of Americans liked the way Biden has steered the U.S. military and diplomatic effort in Afghanistan this year. The president, who just last month praised Afghan forces for being “as well-equipped as any in the world,” was rated worse than the other three presidents who presided over the United States’ longest war….The Ipsos poll found that 75% of Americans supported the decision to send in additional troops to secure key facilities in Afghanistan until the withdrawal is complete, and about the same number supported the evacuation of Afghans who helped U.S. forces in the country….Yet Americans appeared to be largely unsettled on what to think of the war, with majorities expressing somewhat contradictory views about what the U.S. military should have done.” At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley examines a series of recent polls, and concludes, “On the whole, we don’t expect to see a big shift in Biden’s approval rating, given just how polarized American politics are. But it’s also impossible to currently ascertain the longer-term consequences of the Taliban’s takeover, such as a potential increase in terrorism. It’s possible that what’s happened in Afghanistan will dominate headlines for weeks to come, but even that’s uncertain. After all, American news coverage of Afghanistan has surged before, only to quickly evaporate. And even if the spotlight stays on the crisis in Afghanistan, that doesn’t necessarily mean Biden will lose ground in approval.” Skelley shares a chart showing recent polling data:

Share of Americans who supported or opposed the decision to remove U.S. military troops from Afghanistan in polls conducted since July 1, 2021, by the most recent poll available

Politico/Morning Consult* Aug. 13-16 49% 37% +12
Redfield & Wilton Strategies Aug. 2-3 49 19 +30
Chicago Council on Global Affairs July 7-26 70 29 +41
Echelon Insights July 19-23 64 22 +42
Yahoo News/YouGov July 13-15 50 22 +28
The Economist/YouGov July 10-13 57 20 +37
Politico/Morning Consult July 9-12 59 25 +34
The Hill/HarrisX July 2-3 73 27 +46

*Poll was conducted as news broke over the weekend that the Taliban were making advances into Kabul, forcing the evacuation of U.S. and allied personnel.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Biden’s complicated new task: keeping Democrats together” by the Associated Press: “President Joe Biden overcame skepticism, deep political polarization and legislative gamesmanship to win bipartisan approval in the Senate this week of his $1 trillion infrastructure bill….But as the bill moves to consideration in the House alongside a $3.5 trillion budget that achieves the rest of Biden’s agenda, the president is facing an even more complicated task. He must keep a diverse, sometimes fractious Democratic Party in line behind the fragile compromises that underpin both measures….If Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress hope to succeed with what they’ve called a two-track legislative strategy, the months ahead will almost certainly be dominated by a tedious balancing act. With exceedingly slim majorities in Congress, Biden can’t afford many defections in a party whose members include moderates and progressives….From Biden’s blueprint, the package will essentially rewire the social safety net and expand the role of government across industries and livelihoods, on par with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. White House aides are encouraged that, so far, both the liberals and moderates have engaged in mere saber rattling with no red lines drawn….“We have a diverse caucus, from Bernie Sanders, we have Joe Manchin, and everybody in between,” Schumer said. “There are some in my caucus who might believe it’s too much. There are some in my caucus we believe it’s too little. We are going to all come together to get something done.”….An array of progressive and pro-White House groups will aim to keep Democrats in line by spending nearly $100 million to promote Biden’s agenda while lawmakers are on recess. An outside coalition of progressive organizations launched a war room and is planning to host over 1,000 events and actions to bombard the home districts of members of Congress with ads — both televised and digital — to keep the pressure on to follow through on their votes as well as to underscore much of the agenda’s popularity with the public.”

Democrats are deploying a new strategic meme that flips the GOP narrative and has targeted Republicans squirming and flustered. “Several members have already started to implement the new strategy,” Akela Lacy reports at The Intercept. “The former President and Radical Republican are disrespecting police officers,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted July 22. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle in @HouseJudiciary this morning were yet again talking about ‘supporting the police,’ ‘funding the police.’ But they voted against the opportunity to fund the police in the American Rescue Plan. Watch what they do, not what they say,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Orlando’s former police chief, tweeted the previous day. Earlier this month, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., tweeted the same slogan: “4 Months Ago: All Republicans voted against #AmericanRescuePlan including funding for Police. 1 Month Ago: 21 Republicans voted against honoring Police for their work during the 1/6 Capitol riot. Now: Capitol Police may run out of funds. Watch what they do, not what they say….After Capitol Police officers testified to Congress on Tuesday during the first hearing of the select committee investigating the January 6 riot, the DNC issued a press release describing the GOP as the caucus that “voted against additional funding for police” and criticized Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., for “*counterprogramming* police officers testifying about the day they protected those very same members of Congress from the violence of January 6….Pelosi’s deputy communications director, Robyn Patterson, replied to the House GOP tweet: “Republicans can’t name a single Congressional Democrat who voted to defund the police. Fox News, however, can name 210 House Republicans and 50 Senate Republicans who voted to.”

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “It’s Liberals Who Are the Tough-Minded Realists About Policy,” and writes, “Over the decades, conservatives have been enormously successful at selling a parody of liberalism. Liberals are cast as dreamy idealists who think “throwing money at problems” is the way to solve them. They’re painted as hostile to a tough-minded examination of their programs and indifferent to whether they work….This parody has things exactly backward. In 2021, it’s liberals who want citizens, politicians included, to look rigorously at the evidence. It shows how many public programs make a substantial, positive difference in the lives of Americans, especially kids from low-income families. It’s conservatives who prefer ideology and moralism to the facts….The spending that liberals favor these days — much of it included in President Biden’s American Families Plan that Democrats are pushing through Congress — is for government interventions that have been tested and proved.’ Dionne cites “a report released this month by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a think tank devoted to careful policy analysis aimed at lifting up those who have been left out,” which notes that ““When children grew up in a household receiving additional cash benefits, their academic achievement increased on a lasting basis.”….“When children had access to quality pre-kindergarten at age 4, they were likelier to enter college on time.”….“When high school students were guaranteed grants to pay for community college, they were likelier to complete community college.” Dionne adds, “A major obstacle to more energetic efforts to help the least advantaged, Parrott said, is “the cynicism that it doesn’t matter what we do.” But it does matter. When it comes to public programs, the antithesis of cynicism is reality itself: We know a great deal about what works. Let’s do it.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Alex Samuels reports at FiveThirtyEight: “There’s been a big discussion as of late into whether schools should be allowed to teach critical race theory and have frank discussions about racism in the U.S. And new polling from the Pew Research Center shows that most Americans believe increased attention to  the history of racism is a good thing for society. Per the poll, 53 percent of U.S. adults think it’s “very” or “somewhat” good for society to be aware of the history of slavery and racism in America, while 26 percent of respondents think it’s bad for society. The survey found wide partisan and racial divides, too. Black (75 percent), Asian American (64 percent) and Hispanic adults (59 percent) were more likely to view heightened attention to this topic as a good thing, while just a little under half of white adults (46 percent) felt the same way. The partisan divide was even more stark, Pew found. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, only 25 percent said greater attention to racism and slavery was good for society, compared to 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. “