washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “Bipartisanship for infrastructure is great. Don’t expect it for much else,” E. J. Dionne writes : “The bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate passed Tuesday is a big deal, but let’s say it upfront: Not everything that’s bipartisan is good, and not everything that’s good is bipartisan. Bipartisanship should be a method, not a fetish….Nor should the bill’s remarkable margin — 69 to 30, with 19 Republicans joining all the Democrats in voting yes — be hailed as a sign that all is well. If the Senate’s much-abused filibuster remains unchanged, Republicans are certain to block political reform (as they showed in the early hours of Wednesday when they prevented consideration of a voting rights bill) and millions of Americans will have their right to vote impeded….These caveats should serve as a check on Washington’s habit of leaping to unwarranted self-congratulation. But they do not diminish the significance of Tuesday’s achievement for President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)….At a philosophical level, it is a sign of a new day that Republicans broke with their anti-government austerity habit — it’s especially pronounced when a Democrat is president — to support $1.2 trillion in long-term investments….True, there is nothing radical about roads, bridges, public transit and broadband. And to get GOP votes, Biden agreed to knock out a lot of spending for schools, housing and climate….But remember that President Donald Trump talked nonstop about infrastructure and got nothing. This is not a snide talking point about his announcing one “infrastructure week” after another, to no effect. It’s a reflection of how low infrastructure ranked among congressional Republicans’ priorities during the Trump years — far behind tax cuts and judges.”

Max Burns explains why “AOC Is Winning—Unless Progressives Overplay Their Hand” at The Daily Beast: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez set off a wave of centrist pearl-clutching when she warned Senate Democrats last month that progressive lawmakers were willing to “tank” Joe Biden’s signature infrastructure bill if it arrived in the House without a companion bill packed with trillions more in critical climate and social infrastructure spending….“We will not support bipartisan legislation without a reconciliation bill, and one that takes bold action on climate, drawing down carbon emissions,” AOC told lefty broadcaster Democracy Now! on July 12. “We’ve drawn a strong line… and we intend to act on that if a reconciliation bill does not come to the floor of the House.”….The left has been instrumental in defending and strengthening the reconciliation bill’s loftier goals. They’d be nuts to oppose it now….Fortunately for the left, AOC’s bold threat to kill Biden’s signature legislation unless the Senate included progressive priorities paid off. Centrist Senator Joe Manchin spent weeks posturing as a budget hawk on cable news shows as he fought to strip out huge chunks of Democrats’ party-line reconciliation package. But it’s clear Manchin took AOC’s threat seriously: He recently echoed AOC’s messaging, telling reporters he now supports including ‘soft infrastructure’ priorities like funding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants….On Aug. 7, the House Progressive Caucus specifically mentioned five policy areas as non-negotiable: affordable housing, the care economy, Medicare expansion, climate action and citizenship. “We’re not backing down,” the Caucus tweeted. “If the bill doesn’t fund these sufficiently, it’s not getting our votes.”….Now the Progressive Caucus can claim significant credit for a reconciliation framework that includes Universal Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, creates an entirely new federal health program for Americans stuck in the “Medicaid gap,” and pumps nearly $200 billion into a host of climate change remediation programs Schumer called “the most significant investment in tackling the climate crisis in U.S. history.”….The left can also crow that their fingerprints are all over Biden’s signature legislation, disproving the oft-repeated centrist criticism that progressives are better at communication than legislation. That’s especially true for the newest members of Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive A-Team, who can now tell voters they’ve turned progressive ideals into policy faster than any other lefties since Lyndon Johnson’s tenure in the 1960s. Progressives can’t let their pursuit of a perfect bill block a massive federal investment in their climate and care infrastructure agenda….The influence on display in the left’s successful reconciliation gambit was hard-won through careful strategizing, effective messaging and issue solidarity. All that hard work can be squandered in a moment if House progressives overplay their considerable hand. AOC and the House Progressive Caucus have proven to be able dealmakers in a closely-divided Washington. Knowing when to take a win will be their biggest test yet.”

The redistricting news from the deep south is all bad, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman report at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Even if we assume only modest gerrymandering by Republicans — and that is not a safe assumption, but let’s make it here just for the sake of argument — it’s easy to see how Republicans could squeeze a half-dozen more net seats out of these four big states….Republicans in Texas could, for instance, go from 23-13 to 25-13 just through making sure the state’s two new seats go to them, or some other combination of changes that gives Democrats a new seat but compensates for that by making an existing Democratic seat more Republican. Georgia Republicans could add a seat by altering one of the Democratic-held GA-6 or GA-7, making one markedly bluer and the other markedly redder. North Carolina Republicans could ensure that the state’s new seat is a Republican seat, and Florida Republicans could do the same while altering one other current Democratic seat, either FL-13 in the Tampa Bay area or FL-7 in the Orlando area, in such a way that a Republican wins it next year. So that would be six seats right there. And Republicans in these states probably will go further than this, with some of the possibilities outlined above, although doing so may carry more risk, particularly if Republicans stretch themselves too thin in big metro areas where their strength has eroded in recent years, most notably Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, Raleigh, and Charlotte. That we did not mention any Florida cities in that list — Republicans generally have held up better in that state’s big urban areas — is an indication that perhaps Florida represents the GOP’s best gerrymandering opportunity of this group, despite the state’s seeming restrictions on such activity.” Scant comfort that Democrats will do a little better in other regions.

FiveThirtyEight is running a useful update feature for redistricting followers, “What Redistricting Looks Like In Every State: An updating tracker of proposed congressional maps — and whether they might benefit Democrats or Republicans in the 2022 midterms and beyond” with lots of graphics reflecting partisan lean in old and new maps and hover notation data released each state. From the intro: “Arguably the most important factor in the 2022 midterm elections will be congressional redistricting. Where will each party gain power? Lose power? And will the new districts even be drawn in time for next year’s primaries? Right now, though, the redistricting process is behind schedule due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Census Bureau says that it will now release the block-level data necessary for redistricting on Aug. 12, which will likely set off a redistricting scramble. Many states face early constitutional or statutory deadlines to finalize their new maps — including some that are impossibly early, inspiring certain states to seek legal extensions in court. One state, Colorado, has even gone ahead and drawn a draft of a congressional map using population estimates from 2019. (The lines will have to be adjusted with 2020 data before becoming official.) Several other state legislatures, meanwhile, will reconvene later this year to belatedly redraw their districts. We at FiveThirtyEight will be tracking the whole redistricting process, from proposed maps to final maps, so watch this space for updates!” Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Vermont each have only one congressional seat, so no redistricting process.


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics ‘The Point,’ Chris Cilliza observes, ““During a closed-door lunch last week with some of his most vulnerable incumbents, House Democrats’ campaign chief delivered a blunt warning: If the midterms were held now, they would lose the majority….“Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney followed that bleak forecast, which was confirmed by multiple people familiar with the conversation, with new polling that showed Democrats falling behind Republicans by a half-dozen points on a generic ballot in battleground districts. Maloney advised the party to course-correct ahead of 2022 by doing more to promote President Joe Biden’s agenda, which remains popular with swing voters.”….What that says, in not so many words, is this: Democrats are losing the message war….”How do Democrats win in places like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and Georgia?” former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges asked in an interview late last month. “The circus has left Washington and Biden has already cleaned up the mess. I’m not sure why Democratic candidates would stray from that message — particularly in purple states….An NPR/Marist/PBS poll released last month showed 50% of adults approve of how Biden is handling the economy while 45% disapprove. Among electorally-critical independents, 48% approved while 47% disapproved….Those numbers are good but not overwhelming. But there’s no question that talking about the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package that passed Congress earlier this year and the bipartisan infrastructure bill currently working its way through Congress is far better political ground for Democrats to fight on than more “woke” issues like defunding the police.”

Former editor of the Cedar Falls Courier Saul Shapiro argues that “Democrats are miserable at messaging in the context of Iowa’s congressional races, and explains, “Mainstream Democrats are running from it with Olympian speed, but without deflecting any deserved crime blame to Republicans obsessed with rescinding gun laws….Iowa had a record 353 gunshot deaths overall in 2020, up 20%, with a 73% homicide increase. Republican evisceration of state gun laws echoes Missouri, a national leader at 5.6 homicides per 100,000. The U.S. average is 3.6….While Democrats profess to “fight for you,” they’re often punching bags. Their “when-they-go low, we’ll-go-high” mantra ignores GOP history….These days Republicans brand all Democrats as “socialists,” popular social programs aside….Yet Democrats won’t paint all Republicans as Trump-loving, history-averse white supremacists, anti-democratic insurrectionists and conspiracy wackos, despite their growing footprint….Or cite hypocrisy. Iowa Republicans love local control only when they’re in control, stripping localities of control on issues that didn’t comport to their agenda….Republicans refuse to implement a sales tax approved in a 2010 state constitutional referendum to clean Iowa’s chemically degraded waterways. Iowa drinking water is linked to 300 cancer cases annually….”

Shapiro continues, “While teaching marketing at Wartburg College, I touted Republican strategist Frank Luntz’s success. Luntz transformed the inheritance tax — largely targeting the rich — into the hated “death tax.” More recently, he advised Donald Trump to stress “border security.” Democrats still can’t shake the “open borders” perception. (Their 2020 convention didn’t help.)….Luntz repackaged “climate change” as “global warming” so Republicans could repudiate human complicity….But after the 2017 L.A. wildfires nearly engulfed his home, he changed his tune, offering Democrats more accessible messaging….Ditch “sustainability” for “cleaner, safer, healthier.” Replace “ending global warming” with “solving climate change.” Recast empty “new jobs” as forward-thinking “new careers.” Don’t use nebulous “groundbreaking” or “state of the art,” but “reliable technology or energy.” Forgo globalist “one world” for “working together….Cities initially embracing “defund the police” now pragmatically avoid it. “Reimagining the police” — alleviating social service obligations, improving community interaction, and removing discernible bad actors — is proactive, not alarmist….Unfortunately, Democrats have a penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with low-profile candidates and inept campaigns (Theresa Greenfield against Joni Ernst) devoid of Luntz-like messaging. They should emulate the Lincoln Project, former GOP strategists alienated by Trumpism but committed to democracy. Their ads don’t pull punches….Policy matters, but the right messaging is required to sell it.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in the Atlantic that “Biden, with his earnest and unpolished persona, hasn’t inspired the visceral backlash from his opponents that Trump, Barack Obama, or even George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did. While White House officials are closely watching for signs of backlash, they remain optimistic that this August recess won’t produce anything like the grassroots conservative uprising in August 2009 against the Affordable Care Act that crystallized the Tea Party movement….For those Democrats comfortable with Biden’s approach, the benefits are clear. Sean McElwee, a leading pollster for progressive causes, says Biden has found an effective division of labor: By stressing unity and courting GOP officials, McElwee argues, Biden has made it more difficult for Republicans to mobilize their base. “Biden has made politics boring again,” he says admiringly, while other Democrats can call out the GOP’s turn toward extremism on issues from COVID-19 to voting. “I think it’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time here,” he says….To Democrats in this camp, the infrastructure deal “is proof of concept,” especially if Biden can pair it with an ambitious follow-on bill for human-capital investments passed solely with Democratic votes, says Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic group Third Way. If Biden can pass those two massive proposals, and contain the pandemic over the coming months, Kessler insists, he’ll be reelected. “And if he gets reelected, that could be the end of Trumpism,” Kessler says.”


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond note a significant change in President Biden’s pandemic strategy: “When Republican governors began prematurely lifting coronavirus restrictions in their states earlier this spring, President Joe Biden and his team largely kept their heads down, ramping up vaccine distribution while steering clear of rhetorical battles with political adversaries.…But this week, as the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in several southern states sent cases soaring, Biden took a new approach: Castigating Republican governors who are standing in the way of mask and vaccine requirements — and calling out the governors of Texas and Florida in particular for enacting “bad health policy.”….”I say to these governors: Please help. But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way,” Biden said during remarks about the pandemic on Tuesday. “The people are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”….Over the course of the past week, Biden has demonstrated new willingness to cross lines he was previously reluctant to breach, frustrated by the behavior of certain Republicans and exasperated by Americans who refuse to get vaccinated….Biden has come to believe the time holding his tongue has passed. Taken together with the administration’s new openness to vaccine mandates and heightened criticism of vaccine disinformation, the direct calls on governors to alter their behavior reflect Biden’s impatience with forces he believes are prolonging the crisis.”

Charlie Cook addresses a question of consequence, “How Long Can Biden’s Approvals Remain Stable?” at The Cook Political Report, and responds: “The deeper into a president’s term we get, the more meaningful his job-approval rating becomes, and the greater its predictive value….As Gallup’s Frank Newport and Lydia Saad recently wrote in Public Opinion Quarterly, “The strong relationship between presidential approval and both presidential and midterm elections is fascinating and impressive given the simplicity of this question devised more than 70 years ago.”…The bottom line: Democratic hopes of retaining their slim majorities in Congress are almost entirely dependent upon President Biden not sinking them….Biden’s approval ratings in the Gallup poll have ranged from a low of 50 percent (in their most recent survey earlier this month) to a high of 57 percent (in their first poll of his presidency, taken over his first two weeks in office). Gallup’s average over seven polls is 55 percent, with 41 percent disapproving….Even a cursory look at presidential approval ratings in this period of ultra-partisanship underscores how monolithic each party is. Among Democrats, his approval has ranged from 90 to 98 percent; among Republicans, he’s been between 8 and 12 percent. There is little question how partisans on each side would vote; the only question is how many of them will show up….Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz makes the case for watching the generic congressional ballot test question instead. His point is well taken, but in my opinion the question is not asked often enough to allow really close scrutiny of the ups and downs….One smart Democratic analyst privately argues that midterms are less a referendum on the incumbent president’s party than a reflection of the fact that whichever party loses the presidential race is bound to go into the next election with much higher levels of enthusiasm. He urges caution in a party becoming overconfident about a state it just narrowly won….Midterm elections have a lot of moving parts. There is never just one thing to watch. But there’s no better baseline than Biden’s approvals.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. makes the case that “Democrats want to fight Trump, not Biden” at The Washington Post: “It should not surprise anyone that grass-roots Democrats are united behind the president who defeated Donald Trump and wary of candidates who seem more interested in fighting Joe Biden than in advancing his agenda….This is why Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown defeated former Ohio state senator Nina Turner in Tuesday’s special Democratic primary election for a U.S. House seat centered on Cleveland….Brown’s success is being described as a victory of “the establishment” over insurgents and of a “moderate” over a “progressive.” Though partially true, the shorthand misses as much as it reveals….The divisiveness of Turner’s rhetoric aimed at others in her party goes far beyond where most progressive Democrats are. And with the Trump specter still lurking, the 11th Congressional District’s primary voters decided to reward the candidate focused on cooperating with a Democratic administration whose success is a precondition to routing Trumpism for good….It needs to be repeated until it really sinks in: If you look at primary results over the past five years, Democrats remain the party in which more moderate candidates can prevail. Republicans, even when they opt against a Trump-endorsed candidate here or there, are much further to the right than Democrats are to the left….But something else is true, too: Turner’s defeat does not mean that progressive Democrats are “crushed,” to use the sort of language popular on Wednesday. Progressives remain an important force in the Democratic Party but as part of a broader coalition. They succeed when they act as critics inside the tent. They fail when they are seen as bringing down the tent….What doesn’t work is wholesale opposition to Biden and rhetoric that denies the possibility of agreement across the Democratic Party’s factions. And the strategy will fall apart if more moderate Democrats representing tough swing districts lose in 2022…”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall flags a trouble spot for Biden and Democrats: “…In the July 17-20 Economist/YouGov Poll, 38 percent of voters approved of his handling of crime, and 45 percent disapproved. In the Economist/YouGov poll taken a week later, Biden’s numbers on immigration were worse: 35 approving, 50 disapproving….The Biden administration has initiated a set of programs designed to “stem the flow of guns into the hands of those responsible for violence” — the centerpiece of its anti-crime program — but the Economist/YouGov poll found in its July 24-27 survey that 30 percent of voters approve of Biden’s handling of gun issues while 48 percent disapprove.” Edsall quotes Stanford political scientist Bruce Cain, who argues that “the best defense for the Democrats is to go on the offense in 2022 and remind voters about who Trump is and what the Republican Party has become. The resistance to supporting vaccination among Trumpist Republican officials could hurt the party’s national image substantially in 2022 if the unvaccinated are to blame for our inability to put this issue behind us.”


Political Strategy Notes

Douglas E. Schoen, former advisor to President Clinton and 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, puts the infrastrucxture deal in perspective in his article, “Bipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle” at The Hill: “The Senate’s vote on Wednesday to take up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was a big win for bipartisanship, and a big win for President Biden….The 67-to-32 procedural vote, which included 17 Republicans, came just hours after a group of centrist Senators finished negotiating enough details to begin official consideration of the legislation. Though the bill has a ways to go in the Senate and the House, this procedural vote was an encouraging step in the right direction….For years, lawmakers have repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to put together a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.” Schoen credits “President Biden and the group of bipartisan Senators for their efforts, and for showing Americans that cooperation and genuine progress are still possible, even in our deeply polarized political climate….Indeed, Democrats should approach the priorities in their massive $3.5 trillion bill — childcare, education, and clean energy investments — on an issue-by-issue basis in a bipartisan fashion, rather than ramming through one of the largest government expenditures in history on a simple party line vote through the Senate’s budget reconciliation process.”

Schoen continues, “From a practical perspective, proceeding cautiously and incrementally is the only sensical approach to take during such uncertain times — given the specter of inflation and a potential slowdown in the economy (or even a recession) as federal assistance to families is phased out in September. This economic uncertainty is further compounded by the recent growth in COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious Delta variant….Moreover, Democrats ramming this $3.5 trillion bill through on party lines will have costly political consequences. And in my experience working in the White House, working across party lines leads to both meaningful reform as well as electoral success….After Republicans took back control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections, we worked with Republicans in Congress towards a balanced budget and welfare reform, both of which had bipartisan support. In 1996, President Clinton won his second term by a landslide, and he left office under an economic surplus….However, the Democrats’ failure to be incremental and bipartisan now in their approach to the rest of Biden’s agenda could put the party in the minority and Congress in 2022, and could also make a Republican victory in the 2024 presidential election much more likely.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley shares some new data regarding covid vaccination and political attitudes, which reveal the challenges President Biden faces going forward: “The delta variant is spreading rapidly in part because around 30 percent of Americans remain entirely unvaccinated. About 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated and another 9 percent are partly vaccinated,1 which puts the country just short of — and behind schedule for — President Biden’s 70 percent goal set for July Fourth….Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to say they won’t get a vaccination. Depending on the poll, somewhere around 20 percent to 30 percent of Republicans say they won’t get vaccinated, whereas only about 5 percent of Democrats say the same. Independents who are refusing to get the vaccine range from around 10 percent to 25 percent in surveys….the Public Religion Research Institute recently found that the share of Americans under age 50 who were hesitant or opposed to getting the vaccine fell from slightly more than 50 percent in March to 35 percent in June. Still, just under half of that group of 35 percent remained opposed to getting vaccinated in the June survey…In the latest weekly survey from The Economist/YouGov, slightly less than half of Black and Hispanic adults reported being fully vaccinated, while more than 60 percent of white adults said they were….The Kaiser Family Foundation found in April that significantly more unvaccinated Black and Hispanic adults than white adults didn’t know where or when they could get a vaccine….The Economist/YouGov survey showed that around 80 percent of white Americans with a college degree had been fully vaccinated, compared with about 55 percent of those without a degree.” Skelley also notes that “According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 63 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of COVID-19, but that’s 9 percentage points lower than the share who approved at the end of March.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Skelley notes that “Morning Consult/Politico found that 58 percent of registered voters supported a congressional commission investigation of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which comes as the House select committee looking into the insurrection held its first hearing on Tuesday. Support was down from 66 percent in June, however, as only 34 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents backed the congressional investigation, down from 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively.” The fact that the hearings have to compete with the Olympics for public attention at a time when Americans are hungry for some positive news may be reflected in attitudes toward the investigation in the near future. Of course, congress has to proceed with the probe, regardless of polls. What would be helpful at this point would be a survey linking public attitudes toward the two parties to the January 6th assault on the capitol. Democratic 2022 candidates and campaigns need some clues about how memory of the January 6th assault on the capitol plays with potential swing voters, in particular. In any event, the available video of January 6th provides Democrats with a potentially-powerful resource in the 2022  campaign– if they use it effectively to brand the GOP as the party of chaos and a dangerous enemy of democracy.


Political Strategy Notes

No one needs to worry that President Biden might forget to show up in communities where the pivotal working-class constituency lives. In “Biden stays close to home as he plots blue-collar focused presidential travel,” Kevin Liptak writes at CNN Politics: “Want to see President Joe Biden in person? Consider a move to Pennsylvania.…That is where the President visited again Wednesday, his sixth visit to the commonwealth of his birth since taking office six months ago. He toured a Mack Trucks facility in the Lehigh Valley, met with local union members and received a briefing on the company’s new electric dump truck….”It’s a nice area,” Biden observed to one of the facility’s employees as they walked alongside a cab assembly line. “It’s almost heaven. I’m from Scranton.”….Pennsylvania and Ohio will be the site of contested Senate races next year. And those states’ working-class towns and industrial heritage make them well-suited to promote infrastructure, Biden’s current chief agenda item….a pattern has emerged in each of Biden’s trips that underscores his attention toward blue-collar workers. Speaking after visiting a training center for electrical workers in Cincinnati last week, Biden underscored why he has focused in particular on union workers….”If every IBEW person decided they’re going to quit, this country comes to a screeching halt,” he said in a video posted to Instagram….On previous visits to Pennsylvania, Biden could be found touring a flooring company in Chester, speaking at a carpenters training facility in Pittsburgh and celebrating Amtrak’s 50th anniversary at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station….He has engaged in similar activities in neighboring Ohio, which he visited most recently last week, and Michigan, where he took a joy ride in one of Ford’s new electric pickup trucks in May.”

From “Jan. 6 police officers give a master class on the dangers of right-wing extremism” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washingon Post: “Four law enforcement heroes made abundantly clear at Tuesday’s inaugural hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol why this inquiry is essential and why so many Republicans wanted to keep it from happening….Their dramatic, heartfelt testimony also made an airtight case that right-wing extremism is a clear and present danger to the United States….“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” D.C. police officer Michael Fanone said….A thorough investigation of what happened will necessarily be an inquiry into the right-wing extremism that is bleeding into the mainstream of the Republican Party. The best among the Republicans know how dangerous this is for their party and the country. Unfortunately, they do not currently have the upper hand in the GOP, which is why Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) were named to the committee by a Democratic House speaker, not by their own leadership….And there was nothing subtle about the racism confronted by Dunn, who testified that the rioters repeatedly addressed him with an unprintable racial epithet. “Other Black officers shared with me their own stories of racial abuse on January 6,” he said….What happened on Jan. 6 was monstrous, the product of a dangerous, anti-democratic sickness haunting parts of the American right. This is the sort of event that a free nation must come to terms with, not ignore; investigate, not sweep under the rug; and understand, not dismiss as a one-off display of violence. That’s why this committee’s work is so important.”

“Rather than insisting on “Medicare for All” — Sanders’ trademark universal, government-funded health care plan — or the climate-change-fighting Green New Deal, Our Revolution is focusing on the more modest alternatives endorsed by President Joe Biden,” Bill Weissert of AP notes in “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives’: The progressive advocacy group Our Revolution is rebranding now that Bernie Sanders is no longer the undisputed leader of the left“….”Those include expanding eligibility for the existing Medicare program and curtailing federal subsidies for fossil fuel companies…..The shift reflects a progressive movement that is at a crossroads. Biden won the Democratic nomination last year by offering more centrist alternatives to much of Sanders’ agenda. Since then, progressive candidates have faced a series of electoral disappointments and are contending with anxiety from moderate Democrats worried that the party’s leftward shift could cost them control of Congress during next year’s midterm elections….“Coming out of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, in some ways the organization was probably more of a bridge organization between the two electoral cycles,” Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution’s executive director, said in an interview. “What we’re trying to build is something that is longer term” and “part of the overall ecosystem of the progressive movement.”….“I think we are rooted in a bold, progressive vision, but we’re also pragmatic progressives,” Geevarghese said….“You can see a real change in the trajectory of where the Democratic Party is when it comes to the big investments, the use of government levers to improve people’s livelihoods, the fight against climate change,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.”

At The New Yorker, John Cassidy cites “research by economists—including Janet Currie, of Princeton, James Heckman, of the University of Chicago, and Hilary Hoynes, of the University of California, Berkeley—which showed that, over the long term, government interventions targeted at early childhood generate high returns for the individuals concerned and for society at large. The prioritization of real-world results over a priori theorizing marked an important advance in economics, and it is no coincidence that the Biden economic team is heavily populated by empiricists. But, to make the monthly child tax-credit payments a reality, it also took years of political effort, two upset Democratic Senate victories in Georgia, and a President willing to prioritize a costly anti-poverty initiative. For that last one, Biden deserves special credit….With votes on advancing the two big spending measures expected before Congress goes into its summer recess, and new doubts emerging about the prospects for agreement on the infrastructure package, the next couple of weeks could be key. From a macro-political perspective, the justification for the ambitious Biden agenda is that, after four years of Donald Trump, and a second Presidential election in which Trump gained more than forty-six per cent of the vote, it is imperative to demonstrate to the wider public that the game isn’t rigged for the élites, and that the federal government can deliver tangible benefits to working Americans. Only by accomplishing this objective will it be possible to build a new social bargain on which democracy (and non-predatory capitalism) can rest more securely. One may quibble with elements of this strategy. But, after a week in which it was revealed that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff feared that Trump was planning to execute a coup earlier this year, the thought of its failing outright is almost too dire to contemplate. What’s at stake is much more than dollars and cents.”


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. applauds the very few Republican leaders who are finally urging the public to get vaccinated – and also has some message points for Democratic candidates and campaigns: “Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of July 23, the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates (counting the District of Columbia as a state) all voted for President Biden….A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CDC data found that as of July 6, the average vaccination rate in counties that voted for Biden was 46.7 percent. In counties that voted for Donald Trump, the vaccination rate was 35 percent….This, sadly, should be no surprise. An Associated Press-NORC poll released Friday found that among Democrats, only 18 percent were “not very” or “not at all” confident in the effectiveness of vaccines; among Republicans, 42 percent expressed such doubts….Three states — Florida, Texas and Missouri — accounted for 40 percent of new covid cases last week….It’s the new political geography of sickness and death….Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux pointed to the unpopularity of the anti-vaccine position generally, and especially among “red state business communities” who fear new lockdowns….“I wouldn’t be surprised if GOP pols are hearing from business leaders: Knock it off with the anti-vax nonsense,” Molyneux said. The National Football League’s tough stand on vaccination is a high-profile example of a business alarmed about the impact of a resurgent virus on its operations….So please, Republican politicians, keep shouting from the rooftops about the imperative of getting vaccinated. But you also need to take another virus seriously. The spread of extremism in your party is deadly — to our health and to our democracy.

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why President Biden’s bipartisan outreach may have a very short shelf life: “No matter what happens with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it’s pretty clear that this is the last chance for any significant and meaningful bipartisan legislation for the foreseeable future. And, that’s not just because control of the Senate is on the line in 2022. Two of the three Republicans most heavily involved in the bipartisan deal-making on infrastructure won’t be in Congress in 2023, while the third could lose a primary. Ohio’s Rob Portman and North Carolina’s Richard Burr are retiring, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has earned former President Trump’s wrath by voting to impeach him, has a serious intra-party challenge. As important, the Republicans running to replace them are more interested in fighting than in fixing, more invested in widening the partisan chasm than in narrowing it. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidates in key swing seat Senate races don’t share President Biden’s optimism about GOP cooperation. Many of them have pledged to nix the filibuster, something Biden recently said would “throw the entire Congress into chaos.”….in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, every major candidate takes a different view than Biden. All have said they would vote to eliminate the parliamentary procedure. Many of the top Democratic candidates in North Carolina and Wisconsin are also committed to ending the procedure. Even if the filibuster stays intact, the fact that Democrats — even those in swing states — are willing to throw out the parliamentary procedure suggests that members of Biden’s party are much more pessimistic than he is about the comity and bipartisanship.,,,President Biden may believe that there’s still a chance for the Senate to work in a bipartisan way. But, there will be fewer members in that body come 2023 that believe that.”

Will the Florida Democratic Party ever get it together? As Matt Dixon writes in “Florida Democrats anxious over stalled Miami congressional races” at Politico, “Two Miami-area congressional races are likely to be some of the nation’s most expensive and competitive midterm contests. But Democrats so far are missing one thing: candidates….Then-Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost the seats in surprise upsets in 2020. Democrats now see both races as winnable — Hillary Clinton won both districts in 2016 by double digits, and the seats tend to sway between Republican and Democratic control. But some Florida Democrats are blaming the poor recruitment drive on the party, which they say isn’t doing enough to recruit and assist strong candidates — a sign of larger problems in the nation’s biggest swing state….At the same time, Shalala is watching how the state’s redistricting process plays out before deciding whether to run again. The former Clinton administration cabinet official would be the initial favorite in the primary if she enters the race but could leave Democrats scrambling well into the 2022 election cycle if she delays her decision much longer….The unsettled field has left Florida Democrats anxious that two potential opportunities are slipping away from them, especially after Republicans and former President Donald Trump galvanized Miami’s Cuban exile community during the 2020 elections….“Without question it is definitely frustrating,” said Ben Pollara, a Miami-based Democratic consultant. “These are going to be ultra-competitive seats that you will need to raise a lot of money for. I’ve been telling people to get in as soon as you can.”….The growing unease underscores the weak position Democrats are in in Florida as the national party attempts to protect its slim margin in the House. Florida Democrats have struggled this year to recruit A-list candidates for statewide offices like attorney general and even governor, a sign that Democrats see their chances of toppling Republicans dimming….Democrats contend that they have a strong chance of winning back Salazar’s seat, which includes tony Miami Beach. The lines will be redrawn, but the previous two presidential elections show how it raced away from Democrats: President Joe Biden won Salazar’s current district by roughly 3 points in 2020, just four years after Hillary Clinton carried it by almost 20 points.”

Jeet Heer observes in “The Fate of the New Popular Front” at Dissent: “Is Joe Biden the reincarnation of Lyndon B. Johnson or even Franklin D. Roosevelt? Biden will have to rack up many more legislative victories before he can make any such boast, but based on the first few months of his presidency, it is safe to say that Washington is now more amenable to left-wing ideas than at any time since the peak of the Great Society….Many have been taken by surprise by this development. Biden’s political identity has been resolutely centrist for decades. And he was the second-most moderate of the Democrats who vied for the presidential nomination in 2020, to the left only of former Republican Michael Bloomberg. Yet Biden’s centrism has always been tempered by a healthy opportunism. He is a party man, with an uncanny gift for locating himself wherever the median Democratic Party voter is. And thanks to Bernie Sanders’s two bids for the presidential nomination and the rise of a young cohort of openly leftist lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other members of the Squad, the center of gravity of the Democratic Party is well to the left of where it has been for the last half-century….One sign of Biden’s political acumen is the effort he has made to integrate the left into the Democratic Party—something that Hillary Clinton failed to do in her ill-starred 2016 run. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has been especially diligent in making sure that the progressive wing is involved in policymaking. Bernie Sanders’s elevation to chair of the Senate Committee on the Budget, an influential perch, ensures a pressure point for keeping alive social democratic proposals even if the White House backslides. In April, Sanders’s advocacy ensured that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signed on for pushing for cheaper drug prices and a lowering of the Medicare eligibility age, both areas where the White House needs prodding….The dilemma for the left is sometimes presented as a judgement between a Popular Front strategy pursued by Sanders and the Squad—working within the Democratic Party—versus an oppositional left strategy—seeing the Democratic Party establishment as an institutional foe that needs to be delegitimized for progress to occur. The advocates of the Popular Front are willing to praise Joe Biden and mobilize for the party in order to get concessions. For the oppositional left, this transactional alliance is a dead end that will inevitably involve a watering down of radical demands….Between these two poles, there is a spectrum of concern about the left’s place in the Democratic alliance.”


A Progressive Wish List for Biden’s 2nd Term Coming Into View

A report card for progressive Democrats six months into President Biden’s first term would merit  an overall “B.” The Democratic left has done a pretty good job of meeting their primary responsibility, which is to press the case for progressive policy options as much as possible, without forming a circular firing squad leading up to the midterm elections. So far, so good.

They don’t deserve an “A,” because of the tepid response to the GOP campaign to brand Democrats as supporting unpopular policies like “defunding the police,” “open borders” and unbridled socialism. Some of this is the fault of easily-distracted media. But there is considerable room for improvement in the way left Dems push back against such ridiculous stereotypes. A little more message discipline and repetition wouldn’t hurt.

Progressive Democrats are not supposed to provide uncritical support of their party’s leader on all occasions But they need to be there for the big battles, the way they showed up for Georgia’s U.S. senate candidates in the January run-offs. True that Georgia flipped in large part because of the blueing of the suburbs and Trump’s mismanagement of his party’s campaign. But it was the fire lit by energetic Black activism and progressives that helped persuade Georgia’s voters. A repeat perfomance for Warnock is needed in 2022, if Dems are going to secure a working senate majority.

Progressive Democrats should run and win where they can in 2022. But when they lose primaries, support the Democratic nominee wholeheartedly. Unity for all Democratic candidates in November, 2022 is required for winning a functional Democratic majority that can actually govern. Without unity, we don’t really have a viable political party.

Above all, left Dems should think and plan long-term. Three leading progressive Democratic goals, Medicare for All,  filibuster reform and increasing the size of the Supreme Court belong on Biden’s 2nd term wish list (unless he wins enough senate seats next year), even though he has expressed skepticism about these reforms. But one of Biden’s political virtues is that he is open to change – when the circumstances are right. Securing these reforms depends on holding the House majority and a net pick-up of a couple of U.S. senate seats next year. These are not extravagant goals, despite historical patterns, particularly if Biden’s approval ratings stay high.

President Biden is certainly doing his part. His strategy of competent management of the Covid pandemic, a major economic stimulus, plus steady progress in winning incremental reforms to improve the lives of struggling Americans is paying off. As he hits the campaign trail for 2022 Democratic candidates this week, progressive Democrats should see it as part of their cause.


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “The Tool That Joe Biden Refuses to Use: The president’s speech about the sanctity of the vote did not go far enough” at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein explains, “That relative emphasis on infrastructure over voting rights may reflect several calculations in the White House. One is the belief, as officials have described to me, that the best way for Biden to prevent Republicans from stealing future elections is for Democrats to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2022—and the best way to ensure that is for him to pass the bread-and-butter agenda he ran on (which includes, in their view, working with Republicans)….Others see in Biden’s approach an implicit acknowledgment that he is highly unlikely to persuade the Democratic holdouts—led by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—to change the Senate filibuster, the necessary precondition to passing any new federal voting-rights legislation. By that analysis, the White House is modulating Biden’s engagement in a fight that he is very unlikely to win. “I believe they have decided that Manchin, and maybe others, are unmovable on the filibuster, and if they are unmovable, let’s focus on what we can do and not beat our heads against a wall that is simply never going to crack,” Matt Bennett, the executive vice president for public affairs at the centrist Democratic group Third Way, told me….A third possible factor in the White House ranking may be the most confounding to voting-rights groups. In his speech yesterday, Biden, like Vice President Kamala Harris in an address last week, seemed to suggest that Democrats could overcome the recent red-state moves with sufficient on-the-ground organizing. A top White House official had first made that argument to me in May in response to the initial wave of criticism from civil- and voting-rights groups that the administration was not adequately engaged in this fight.” Further, ” The late-June ruling by the six GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices further weakening the Voting Rights Act diminished the odds that the Justice Department or civil-rights groups can block these new state laws in court….With the Democratic options narrowing, the one lever the party possesses is federal legislation establishing a nationwide floor of voting rights, including guaranteed access to early and mail voting, as well as automatic and same-day voter registration. After a Republican filibuster blocked Senate debate on such a bill last month, Democrats have been attempting to negotiate a scaled-down version of the legislation based on the principles that Manchin indicated last month he could support.”

Also at the Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes that President Biden “gripes privately about the filibuster, aware that the parliamentary procedure is, in many minds, what’s standing between him and the FDR-size agenda he now aspires to accomplish. He looks at next year’s midterms and sees that historical trends, supercharged by gerrymandering and new red-state voting restrictions, threaten not just whatever legacy he hopes to build for his own presidency, but democracy itself….Still, the president doesn’t want to throw all his energy into a fight with Trump, or a fight over an initiative like the For the People Act, the Democrats’ favored election-reform bill. Many top White House aides (as well as more Democratic senators than have said so publicly, despite voting for it) see the legislation as full of problems that wouldn’t hold up to a Supreme Court challenge. Plus, the votes aren’t there for it to pass in the Senate. As for the filibuster, Biden believes that not only would coming out against the bill publicly be counterproductive, but that doing so would end all hope of getting any other legislation through the Senate….Biden believes that this is precisely the kind of elitist trap Democrats fall into time and again, to their own detriment. The more energy and airtime Democrats devote to eliminating the filibuster, the less energy they’re putting into talking up the expanded child tax credit or working toward the passage of a historic infrastructure bill. He believes voters are going to care much more about the money in their pockets than the less tangible issues of government reform….“What I’ve learned in my entire career in politics, you can do anything with somebody and get them to move as long as you don’t change their standard of living downward,” he told me….Scrapping the filibuster won’t matter if nothing else can pass the Senate and Biden has a failed presidency; protecting small margins in elections won’t matter if Democrats don’t deliver on other priorities and lose House races next year by 5 or 10 percent.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik notes in the first part of his new series on redistricting that “there are 10 states that use a commission to draw the lines: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington. If those commissions did not exist, and redistricting power was instead given to the state legislature with the possibility of a gubernatorial veto, Democrats would have the power to draw the maps in six of these 10 states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington), Republicans would have the power in three (Arizona, Idaho, and Montana), and there would be divided government control in Michigan (Democrats hold the governorship, Republicans hold the state legislature). Instead of Republicans holding a 187-75 edge, their advantage would be a more modest 200-170 under this scenario, with the remaining 65 districts either in one-district states or in ones with divided government….So in some states, Democrats may be, or are, kicking themselves for backing redistricting commissions. Both parties supported a 2018 Colorado ballot issue that created an independent redistricting commission for congressional maps. Had it not passed, Democrats now would have gerrymandering power in the Centennial State and drawn themselves a better map than a draft the commission released a few weeks ago, which likely will result in a 5-3 Democratic delegation but could split 4-4 in a strong Republican year. “We’re (expletive) idiots,” said one anonymous state lawmaker, as quoted by the Colorado Sun.”

The Nation’s Elie Mystal makes a compelling argument that pretty much all voting rights reform legislation is doomed because the current U.S. Supreme Court majority is already in the pocket of the GOP, when it comes to voting rights. Further, argues Mystal, “There is something the Democrats could do to restore the Voting Rights Act. Expand the Supreme Court. It’s actually the only reasonable thing Democrats can do. The Supreme Court has made it clear that there are not five votes to support the notion that nonwhites should have equal access to the ballot box. If Democrats do not expand the court, then they accept that premise and leave Black people—their actual base of electoral support—to fend for themselves against whatever ideas Republican governors can come up with to discourage them from voting….But to expand the court, you first need to break the filibuster….Even if the filibuster is somehow defeated, it’s pretty clear that Biden would want to use that power to pass an infrastructure bill as well as these well-intentioned voting rights protections that will be easily overturned by the Supreme Court in a few years time. The will to do what is necessary to protect Black people from Republicans simply doesn’t exist in the current Democratic Party….So they feed us this lie, this falsehood that a carefully tailored voting rights restoration bill will be above constitutional reproach, even though the conservatives on the Supreme Court have literally already told us precisely how they will strike down any new voter protection bill should they have to. Democrats are trying to wish a better Supreme Court into existence, because they don’t have the political strength to use their constitutional powers to make one….I know this isn’t what most liberals want to hear, but it is the truth. Bills promising federal oversight of state elections are dead on arrival at the conservative Supreme Court. The only way to fix that problem is to fix that court. Everything else is a pointless show, a cacophony of sound meant to distract people from the cold reality that democracy is sinking.” All of which underscores the importance of Democrats breaking the historical pattern of the president’s party losing seats in the House and Senate in its first midterm elections, and even more challenging — picking up two or three Senate seats needed to shred the filibuster and increase the size of the Supreme Court.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “Unprecedented, redistributive government spending across the wealthy countries prevented the pandemic downturn from becoming another Great Depression. At the same time, the seething social resentments that right-wing populists brought to the fore forced even the complacent to recognize the dislocations and injustices bred by rising inequality over the last half-century….This shift toward interventionism has been reinforced by a climate crisis whose dangers are increasingly obvious to large majorities across the democratic world….All this has led to a resurgence of social democracy’s core idea: that market economies can thrive only when governments underwrite them with strong systems of social insurance, new paths to opportunity for those cast aside by capitalism’s “creative destruction,” and updated rules to advance social goods that include family life, education, public health — and the planet itself….This explains why there is more unity among Democrats than skeptics expected around Biden’s big investment program. Its emphasis on shared social needs reflects how broad the new consensus is. It encompasses pro-capitalist moderates such as Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) no less than democratic socialists such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).”

From postfun.com: There are more people in the red areas than the grey, which may help explain political ad buys.

In an article orginally published in The National Journal, Charlie Cook writes at the Cook Political Report: “One Washington Post column cited a recent Navigator survey conducted for a group of liberal labor groups and individuals involved in Democratic politics and policy. Three in five registered voters in its national sample said they believe that the country is in crisis—72 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Democrats. When respondents were given a list of 14 different possibilities and asked which ones they considered a major crisis, the top issue was violent crime, with 54 percent. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said so, as did 52 percent of independents and Democrats. This was 3 points higher than the coronavirus pandemic and well above a whole host of Democratic priorities, including China, climate change, voting, joblessness, and infrastructure, as well as “cancel culture.”….As Biden tries to navigate rising crime, he and his team are clearly mindful of how toxic his party’s most extreme voices are to swing voters. Despite his efforts to create a lot of distance from that movement, there is a certain guilt by association that’s amplified very effectively by his GOP and conservative critics….Many Democrats—including Biden at his press conference on crime last month—point to their efforts to enact tougher gun laws. But voters are savvy enough to know that new regulations on guns aren’t likely to get through Congress. Until then, they want to know: What happens? What else can you do to keep me safe? Democrats’ majority may depend on their answer.”

At Politco, Steven Shepard notes: “A new, highly anticipated report from the leading association of pollsters confirms just how wrong the 2020 election polls were. But nine months after that closer-than-expected contest, the people asking why are still looking for answers….National surveys of the 2020 presidential contest were the least accurate in 40 years, while the state polls were the worst in at least two decades, according to the new, comprehensive report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research….The most likely — if far from certain — culprit for off-kilter polling results is that key groups of people don’t answer polls in the first place….Comparing the final election results to the poll numbers for each candidate, Trump’s support was understated by a whopping 3.3 points on average, while Biden’s was overstated by a point — turning what looked like a solid Biden lead into a closer, if still decisive, race….It wasn’t just a Trump effect, either. The polls of Senate and governor’s races were off by an even greater margin: 6 points on average….Without definitive answers about the causes of the 2020 miss, however, pollsters aren’t sure they’ll be able to get it right in 2022, 2024 or beyond.”


Political Strategy Notes

Hugo Lowell reports at The Guardian: “Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition….The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote….Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter…Ending the use of the filibuster for constitutional measures – and lowering the threshold to pass legislation to a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate – is significant as it would almost certainly pave the way for Democrats to expand voting across the US….Democrats open to making the change have previously indicated that their argument that the minority party should not have the power to repeatedly block legislation with widespread support resonates with the wider American public….“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” the Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley wrote on Twitter after Republicans blocked S1, illustrating the sentiment. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.””

From Simone Pathe’s “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022” at CNN Politcs: “The fight for control of the evenly divided Senate will be the most dramatic showdown of 2022, and based on the candidates who have jumped in so far — and those who are expected to — there are a few changes to this month’s ranking of the Senate seats most likely to flip partisan control….Pennsylvania — an open-seat race in a state that President Joe Biden carried in 2020 — remains the most likely to flip. But four other states have moved around slightly….Two other Biden states are trading places, with New Hampshire leapfrogging above Nevada. It’s true that Biden carried the Granite State by a wider margin, but the potential GOP candidate options there are enough to move it above the Silver State for now. Of course, that could change if two big name Republicans in New Hampshire pass on the race….Two Trump states are also switching spots. Florida is now above Ohio in terms of likelihood of flipping. Democrats have done better recently at the presidential level in Florida than they have in Ohio, and that’s all the more relevant now that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is running against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Democrats already had a candidate in Ohio — Rep. Tim Ryan — but the increasingly red state is tougher terrain for the party. However, this is fluid — it’s still possible that the messy GOP primary in the Buckeye State will be just the opening Democrats need.” Pathe provides a detailed run-down for each of the states.

In his New York Times Column, “Lean in to it. Lean into the Culture War,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Should responsibility for the rampant polarization that characterizes American politics today be laid at the feet of liberals or conservatives? I posed that question to my friend Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal….He emailed me his reply:

It is fair to say that the proponents of cultural change have been mostly on offense since Brown v. the Board of Education, while the defenders of the status quo have been on defense.

Once the conflict enters the political arena, though, other factors come into play, Galston argues:

Intensity makes a huge difference, and on many of the cultural issues, including guns and immigration, the right is more intense than the left.

Galston put it like this:

When being “right” on a cultural controversy becomes a threshold issue for an intense minority, it can drive the party much farther to the left or right than its median voter.

Along with intensity, another driving force in escalating polarization, in Galston’s view, is elite behavior:

Newt Gingrich believed that the brand of politics Bob Michel practiced had contributed to House Republicans’ 40-year sojourn in the political desert. Gingrich decided to change this, starting with Republicans’ vocabulary and tactics. This proved effective, but at the cost of rising incivility and declining cooperation between the political parties. Once the use of terms such as “corruption,” “disgrace” and “traitor” becomes routine in Congress, the intense personal antipathy these words express is bound to trickle down to rank-and-file party identifiers.

The race and gender issues that have come to play such a central role in American politics are rooted in the enormous changes in society from the 1950s to the 1970s, Galston wrote:

The United States in the early 1950s resembled the country as it had been for decades. By the early 1970s, everything had changed, stunning Americans who had grown up in what seemed to them to be a stable, traditional society and setting the stage for a conservative reaction. Half a century after the Scopes trial, evangelical Protestantism re-entered the public square and soon became an important build-block of the coalition that brought Ronald Reagan to power.

Edsall also quotes Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker: “It strains credulity to argue that Democrats have been pushing culture-war issues more than Republicans. It’s mostly Republican elites who have accentuated these issues to attract more and more working-class white voters even as they pursue a plutocratic economic agenda that’s unpopular among those voters. Certainly, Biden has not focused much on cultural issues since entering office — his key agenda items are all bread-and-butter economic policies. Meanwhile, we have Republicans making critical race theory and transgender sports into big political issues (neither of which, so far as I can tell, hardly mattered to voters at all before they were elevated by right-wing media and the G.O.P.).” Edsall adds, “There is substantial evidence in support of Hacker’s argument that Republican politicians and strategists have led the charge in raising hot-button issues….If right-wing manipulation of cultural and racial issues does end up backfiring, that will defy the long history of the Republican Party’s successful deployment of divisive wedge issues — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush to Donald Trump. Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that the half-life of these radioactive topics is longer than expected, and Democrats, if they want to protect their fragile majority, must be doubly careful not to hand their adversaries ever more powerful weapons.”