washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

The New Yorker editor David Remnick shares his assessment of the Democratic Convention’s first three nights: “The set-piece speeches of this Convention have largely been effective. Sanders, who came in second in 2020, as he did in 2016, was at once generous to Biden but true to his insistence on foundational change. (There were disappointments: Al Gore on climate change would have been more relevant and welcome than Bill Clinton’s discourse on Oval Office comportment.) Many of the produced-for-TV-and-social-media video segments have also hit the mark, including Tuesday’s roll call with its visions of palm trees, mountain ranges, and fried calamari; the heart-tugging nomination of Biden by a Times security guard; the heroic story of Ady Barkan, a thirty-six-year-old lawyer who suffers from A.L.S. and became nationally recognized for his campaigning for Medicare for All. Those pieces and others largely felt genuine and stood in contrast to the distinctly sour and vindictive opponent they sought to upend.”

Among the “Hits and Misses from Day 3 of the Democratic Convention” according to Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics: “Barack Obama: Yes, the former president is an incredibly talented orator. But we’ve long known that. What mattered most about Obama’s speech on Wednesday was that he did what lots of Democrats have been begging him to do for the last three-ish years: He delivered a stunning takedown of the man who followed him into the White House. Obama said that Trump simply does not take the job “seriously.” He said that Trump uses the government’s vast powers in a purely “transactional way.” And most powerfully, he said this: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t, and the consequences of that failure are severe.” Consider what Obama is saying there: As someone who did the job — for eight years — he not only believes Trump cannot rise to the demands of the presidency, but also that there are very real effects of Trump’s deficiency. “This isn’t just the sharpest criticism Obama has made of Trump,” tweeted Politico’s Tim Alberta. “This is the sharpest criticism a former president has *ever made* of a sitting president.”

Former President Obama’s speech:

At Vox, Dylan Matthews comments on one of the “winners” of night three of the convention, Sen. Elizabeth Warren who expalined why child care is more than just a checklist item to be mentioned in this political year: “Warren focused on a place of deep continuity with Biden: child care, where Biden has proposed a massive system of subsidies that bears a strong resemblance to Warren’s plan. Both would cap child care expenses at 7 percent of income for most Americans…Simply pulling out child care, as important as the issue is, would have risked making the speech seem overly niche. But Warren connected it to the broader coronavirus pandemic and the problem of many schools being unable to safely open for the 2020-’21 school year — she delivered the speech from an early childhood education center. Child care “is just one plan,” she concludes. “It gives you an idea of how we get the country working for everyone.”

Regarding one of the largest constituencies that has been only lightly-showcased at the Democratic convention, Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic: “Surveys released since August 11 by Monmouth University, CNN, NBC/The Wall Street Journal, and ABC/The Washington Post all found Trump attracting from 57 to 60 percent of white voters without a college education. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey put his number slightly lower at 55 percent, while the most recent Pew Research Center poll put him higher, at 64 percent. Trump’s margin over Biden on these measures ranges from just more than 20 percentage points to about 30 points…That’s not as formidable as Trump’s advantage in 2016, when various data sources measuring voting behavior generally put his lead among non-college-educated white voters even higher. And polls in the Rust Belt battleground states, such as the latest Marquette University Law School survey, show Biden performing better among those voters there than he has nationally. Trump’s small overall decline, especially in key battlegrounds, might be enough to deny him a second term by flipping back the three “blue wall” states he won narrowly last time: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”

Brownstein adds: “But Trump’s ability to hold on to about three-fifths of non-college-educated white voters nonetheless testifies to the power of the cultural and racial attitudes that bond them to him. Even non-college-educated white women—though clearly less supportive now than in 2016—still give Trump a clear majority of their votes in all of the recent national surveys for which those data were available. (Biden leads among those women in Wisconsin, the Marquette poll found.) In the South, Trump continues to amass towering margins among white voters without a college degree: He’s at 70 percent or more among them in recent polls in North Carolina and Georgia, and nearly that high in Texas. Polls likewise show that Trump is maintaining support from about three-fourths (NBC/WSJ) to four-fifths (Pew) of white evangelical Christians. With rural voters, the Pew, NBC/WSJ, and ABC/Post polls all put him at from 55 to 60 percent support…Blue-collar white voters still significantly exceed their national share of the vote in the big Rust Belt battlegrounds that Democrats must win until they demonstrate that they can reliably flip more diverse Sun Belt states.”

Looking toward the future role of white working-class voters in American elections, John Judis writes at Talking Points Memo that “Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and the recession has cost him support among white working class voters, If Biden and Harris win in 2020, and especially if they win big, it will partly be because of the defection of these voters…If Biden and Harris win by assembling a coalition that includes these voters, then the question will be whether they can hold them, or whether they will revert back to the Republicans. That will depend on how boldly Biden and Harris proceed. Obama allowed the Republicans to peel away working class voters by his timid approach to the Great Recession, failing, among other things, to go after the bankers who were responsible for it and acceding to conservative pressure to cut spending. if Biden and Harris don’t proceed boldly, I would expect that American politics will revert to the status quo ante — what political scientist Walter Dean Burnham called an “unstable equilibrium” between the parties — where the Republicans and Democrats will exchange political power. Both parties will have to hold together different economic classes. Both will be hampered in general elections by social-minded factions on their extremes.”

Judis notes further, “I would expect the center of gravity of American politics will move somewhat to the left in Democratic and Republican politics. Two deep recessions in a decade will leave their mark in a greater willingness to use the government to cushion citizens from the loss of jobs and health insurance. Competition from China and the loss of industrial jobs will make both parties more willing to support an industrial and trade policy designed to boost American-based industries. Aside from social issues, the difference between the parties will likely be over whether to encourage traditional and non-traditional forms of worker organization and whether to adopt tax policies that dramatically redistribute income and wealth.”

Charlie Cook writes at The Cook Political Report: “The Biden campaign’s singular mission is getting 270 electoral votes, and that means winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Nothing else matters…But the Democratic Party is also trying to rebuild for the future, so reach states like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas are awfully enticing. But Georgia, Ohio, and Texas are big, expensive states. Texas alone has 20 Nielsen media markets, and Des Moines, Iowa, with its almost-statewide reach, isn’t cheap either…But the cold-blooded, reality-based decision about resources that the Biden campaign has to make applies to the Senate as well. Democrats have a surprising number of paths to a majority and beyond, but do they focus on what will get them to 51 or 52 seats, focusing on Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina? Or do they go big, dropping resources into Georgia’s two Senate races, Kansas’s open-seat race, and long-shot opportunities in Texas, or even Alaska, Louisiana, and Mississippi? Notably left off of that list are challenges to Sens. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, since Democrats’ massive fundraising base will cover those two efforts, sparing the party tough decisions there…As tough as they are, they aren’t the triage decisions that their GOP counterparts are about to begin in their allocation choices.”


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides a preview of the Democratic Convention that starts today: “Democrats will gather for their convention this week with dreams of another New Deal dancing in their heads. “Gather” is a polite fiction, of course, since nearly everything will occur remotely in the purest media event ever. But the format will not stop party loyalists from savoring the possibility of a sweeping victory akin to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s triumph over President Herbert Hoover in 1932…Their hopes are not fanciful. President Trump’s catastrophic fumbling in the face of a pandemic and economic collapse invites comparison to Hoover’s haplessness, even if the 31st president was as morally upright as the 45th is not…Every second of the gathering will be an advertisement of Trump’s failure: the convention that could not meet because of the health crisis the incumbent could not manage…And a New Deal-style commitment to active, fact-based, problem-solving government really does match the mood of a country that wants a virus conquered, jobs and incomes on the rise again and fairness enshrined in the economic system…Much of the week’s speechmaking will focus on the calamity that is Trump’s presidency. But the historic task of this “unprecedented and unusual” convention is clear: To help Biden prove that a 21st-century New Deal alignment can be assembled from more diverse building blocks by embracing both racial and economic justice.”

Geoffrey Skelley notes at FiveThirtyEight: “Two early polls suggest that the public has had a reasonably positive reaction to Harris’s selection, too. A snap poll by YouGov after the pick found that 51 percent of voters approved of the choice while 36 percent disapproved. And 47 percent told ABC News/Ipsos that Harris was an excellent or good choice — including 83 percent of Democrats. Only 29 percent said the choice was not so good or poor…Bottom line: Biden’s decision to pick a woman as his VP has remained widely popular, and in Harris, he’s found a solid No. 2. As a former presidential contender, she’s already been through public scrutiny of her record and background, and, as a U.S. senator, she has high-level political experience. She’s also a relatively popular choice according to the polls, so her history-making nomination should please many Democrats.”

In “Democrats fight back in US Postal Service showdown with Trump,” Stephen Colinson reports at CNN Politics, “Democrats are launching an emergency effort to thwart what they warn is President Donald Trump’s attempt to squeeze the US Postal Service — one of the country’s most beloved institutions — to suppress the vote in November’s election…Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on the House to return to Washington, likely next weekend, for an unheard of session during presidential convention season…Democrats have also demanded that new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testify on August 24 to answer charges that his controversial new policy changes are intended to deliberately slow voting by mail…Already, several states say they’re considering legal action against the Trump administration over concerns about the USPS and mail-in voting…It also comes with many Democrats worried that DeJoy’s policy changes, which have slowed delivery times, removed high-speed letter sorters from commission and included warnings that mail-in ballots will no longer be treated as a priority, will severely impact the election on November 3.”

Ronald Brownstein warns at The Atlantic: “President Donald Trump’s open admission yesterday that he’s sabotaging the Postal Service to improve his election prospects crystallizes a much larger dynamic: He’s waging an unprecedented campaign to weaponize virtually every component of the federal government to partisan advantage…Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted, a wide range of public-administration experts have told me…There’s always been temptation … but no president in modern times has taken action so explicitly and obviously—or transparently—to influence and actually direct these agencies to favor the party in power,” Paul Light, a public-service professor at New York University, told me. “None. None.”

SemDem warns at Daily Kos: “The 2020 election will be the first in almost 40 years where Republicans will be allowed to engage in a massive, nationwide coordinated effort for a so-called “ballot security” campaign. During those 40 years, Republicans were under a federal consent decree to curb their poll “monitoring” efforts because, back in 1981, Republicans sent armed, off-duty police officers to patrol the polls in minority neighborhoods for a gubernatorial race in New Jersey. The chief strategist for the Republican in that race was a man you might have heard of: convicted felon Roger Stone…The Democrats sued and won, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) promised to behave. The courts kept the Republicans more or less in line, although the Republicans always tried to work around it. Unfortunately, 2020 will be much different. A federal judge allowed the federal consent decree to expire in 2018. Free from any judicial oversight, the RNC will be able to conduct their dream voter intimidation campaign, and the Republicans are already planning on taking full advantage of this in November.

Sem Dem also provides suggestions for meeting the challenge of GOP ‘ballot security, including: “Sign up to be a poll monitor – Contact your local Democratic party and volunteer. I’ve done this before here in Florida. The Democrats color-code the poll sites where there are issues of challenges and intimidation, on a scale of green, yellow, and red, like a traffic light. There were quite a few sites marked red, as I recall. Election lawyers, if available, are sent to the worst ones. Democrats are there to protect people’s fundamental right to vote. Republicans, not so much. Unfortunately, we were often short-staffed. When I volunteered in 2004, two monitors were allowed by each party for each site, but I was the only one who showed up on the Democratic side. Work the damn polls..Most poll workers are over 60 and thousands are not expected to work the polls this cycle due to the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is causing a massive shortage that will contribute to huge wait times…Are you over 15? Do you want to get paid? Sign up for a shift. I’ve decided that this is where I need to be this election. Please consider doing this.

Jennifer Agiesta reports at CNN Politics, “Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump among registered voters has significantly narrowed since June, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, even as the former vice president maintains an advantage over the President on several top issues and his choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as a running mate earns largely positive reviews…And on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election, a new high in CNN polling in presidential election cycles back to 2003…Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%…”

From “A Steady Race Where Movement Is Driven by “Bystanders” by Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report: “In analyzing the last 18 months of polling from the Polling Consortium (which includes over 20,000 interviews), the AFL-CIO’s Mike Podhorzer has found that most of that movement can be attributed to a group he dubs “partisan bystanders.” These are people who either hate both parties or don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about either party. Some of them aren’t paying all that much attention to politics. Some of them are more checked in on politics. But, they are not deeply invested in their partisan allegiances. Podhorzer estimates that about 15 percent of the electorate falls into the ‘bystander’ category…According to Podhorzer’s analysis, this group cuts across demographic lines. They aren’t defined by demographics. They are defined by their lack of partisan attachment.”

If anyone has any doubts about which political party is leading the way to gender parity in America’s political institutions, Li Zhou shares some clarifying data at Vox, including: “As of earlier this week, 243 women had won House primaries this year, including 169 Democrats and 74 Republicans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. That’s outpacing the 2018 results, when 196 women — 152 Democrats and 44 Republicans — won after the same states had voted. (These numbers don’t include the updated figures from the most recent August 11 primaries or runoffs.)…In 2020, both Democrats and Republicans are seeing a more diverse pool of women filing for these positions, a nearly 50 percent increase from the number of women of color who did in 2018. Democrats, however, still far surpass Republicans on this front, with 162 Democratic women of color filing to run, compared to 86 who did on the GOP side.”


Political Strategy Notes

A choice paragraph from “Kamala Harris Makes History, Many Times Over: The bravery and radicalism of Joe Biden’s choice will become apparent over time” by Joan Walsh at The Nation: “Aimee Allison of She The People, an organization advancing women of color who nonetheless consistently praised Warren’s outreach to Black women and her grasp of the most essential issues, was thrilled: “Generations of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Muslim, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women have fought to get us to this moment,” she told me. Harris’s selection “is the direct result of the tireless work of women-of-color activists, strategists, and visionaries. The establishment couldn’t imagine that this was possible, so we had to make it a reality.” Allison believes winning back the House in 2018 and winning so many state legislative seats throughout the Trump era “showed that our organizing could generate high women of color voter turnout…. We can lead the charge in the states against voter suppression. It’s a reimagining of American politics.”

Michael Tomasky’s review of the Democratic ticket roll-out at The Daily Beast: “Well—she was great…Kamala Harris has swagger. That’s going to drive right-wing men nuts. They’re just not going to know what to do about that. She was so confident in her first remarks as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate. The delivery, the timing. The body language: She bounced from foot to foot, raised her index finger every couple minutes, looked this way, looked that way, smiled here, furrowed her brow there. She was mesmerizing to watch…And the words—this was a really well-written speech. Not long—barely 20 minutes, if that. But it flowed seamlessly from this section to that. There were five sections in all: first, a little intro section sounding the basic themes about this historical moment of pandemic and economic collapse and a moment of reckoning about systemic racism; second, some lovely stuff that was new to me about her friendship with Beau (“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day, sometimes several times a day, working together” to help underwater families keep their homes) and a nice little tribute to the way Joe cared for his boys after his wife and daughter died; third, an autobiographical section with some very nice stuff about her husband and kids and her parents, which will drive the wingnuts crazy because her parents met marching for civil rights and took baby Kamala on some protest marches; fourth, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence, which was brutal; and fifth, the Biden-Harris agenda—an energy revolution, health care, choice, voting rights, the economy.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in “Kamala Harris’s Nomination Is a Turning Point for Democrats” at The Atlantic; “By selecting Harris, Biden has positioned the Democratic Party for a profound generational and demographic transition, and he’s addressed the fundamental incongruity of his candidacy: the inherent strain of a nearly 78-year-old white man leading a political coalition that relies on big margins among young voters, people of color, and women…Biden represents the Democratic Party of his post–World War II coming-of-age: a coalition centered on blue-collar white people who worked with their hands, mostly in smaller industrial cities such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born. From almost every angle, Harris embodies the Democratic Party of the 21st century: a biracial child of immigrants (who is herself in an interracial marriage) who rose to political prominence from a base in San Francisco, a diverse, globalized hub of the emerging information economy…Harris makes the concept of Biden as a bridge more concrete—and potentially more attractive to younger nonwhite voters displaying lagging enthusiasm for him—by embodying the other side of that span: a party that potentially makes more room at the table for people who look like her. “I think Kamala Harris has the potential to activate a voter that otherwise has not seen themself reflected in the Democratic Party,” says Terrance Woodbury, an African-American Democratic consultant who studies younger voters.”

Brownstein continues, “This ticket always seemed to some observers (myself included) the most logical choice for Democrats in their fight against Trump. That’s because the pairing reflects the party’s promising but tenuous position as demographic shifts inexorably transform the electorate. By any measure, Harris symbolizes a Democratic future rooted in groups and places that are growing as a share of society: the well-educated and diverse voters centered in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. A massive recent compilation of survey research by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that the non-college-educated white voters Biden grew up around now constitute only about three in 10 self-identified Democrats, while white voters with a four-year college degree or more constitute nearly as many. People of color represent the plurality, at about 40 percent of Democrats.”

“In 2016, just 60 percent of eligible African American voters turned out,” Brownstein writes, “down from 67 percent in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. Kasim Reed, the African American former mayor of Atlanta, told me last night he is confident that Harris’s position—combined with antipathy toward Trump and Biden’s own connections with older Black voters—will ensure a dramatic rebound in Black participation…Stanley B. Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster, told me that overall, he believes Harris will boost Biden. “I think this will be viewed as real, historic, and likely to be helpful to him in many ways,” Greenberg said. “It will look like a generational change, like someone who is in touch with the country, who can prosecute the case against the administration and against [Mike] Pence” during the vice-presidential debate this fall…Biden’s inner circle has tilted heavily toward older white men, but by choosing Harris, he’s taken one significant step toward acknowledging his need to open more doors to younger and more racially diverse leaders…But whether Biden wins or loses in November, her nomination may be remembered as a moment when the pinnacle of Democratic Party leadership came to more closely resemble the base of voters that elects it to power. Even as the GOP at every level remains dominated by white men—starting with Trump and Pence—the Democrats haven’t nominated a presidential ticket of two white men since 2004. It’s difficult to imagine when they ever will again.”

In “The Politics We Don’t See Matter as Much as Those We Do,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Some of the most important developments in politics do not happen every election cycle, but every ten years, when politicians scrap the old battleground map and struggle to replace it with a new one more favorable to their interests…Steven Hill, a former fellow at New America, described how this works in his still pertinent 2003 book “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.”…“Beginning in early 2001, a great tragedy occurred in American politics,” Hill wrote. As a result of that tragedy, “most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them” as “hallowed notions such as ‘no taxation without representation’ and ‘one person, one vote’ have been drained of their vitality, reduced to empty slogans.”…Hill was referring to “the process of redistricting” that he argued was legalized “theft” engaged in by “the two major political parties, their incumbents, and their consultants,” which Hill said was “part of the everyday give-and-take (mostly take) of America’s winner-take-all politics.”

Edsall explains that both parties have abused the redistricting process, and then writes: “In addition to creating wasted votes — thus undermining a key principle of democracy — an additional consequence of gerrymandering is what Nicholas Stephanopoulos of Harvard Law School calls “representational distortion”: the adoption of policies that do not have majority support in the electorate…Stephanopoulos, the author of the 2018 paper “The Causes and Consequences of Gerrymandering,” described “one glaring example,” in an email: Democrats got more votes than Republicans in the 2012 and 2018 Wisconsin state legislative elections. So in a world without gerrymandering, Democrats would have been able to block all kinds of conservative policies between 2012 and 2014, including environmental deregulation, tax cuts, abortion restrictions, gun deregulation, etc…Instead, Republican majorities in both branches of the Wisconsin legislature enacted all of those policies, as well as a package of anti-union measures…In the 2018 election, Democrats won 53 percent of all votes cast in the Wisconsin State Assembly contests, but won 36 percent of the State Assembly seats.”

“Republicans currently have trifectas in 21 states, Edsall notes, “Democrats in 15 — the remaining states have divided government. Fourteen states, including California, Ohio and Michigan, have shifted control over redistricting from the state legislature to an independent commission. Eleven others use independent commissions either to advise legislatures or to step in when no agreement can be reached. Republicans control both branches of the legislature in 29 states to the Democrats 19, with the only split in Minnesota. (Nebraska’s state government is unicameral.)…Fredrick Cornelius Harris, a professor of political science and director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia, warned that current developments — the likely census undercount of minorities and the poor and the Trump administration’s discouragement of immigrants from filling out census forms, together with the Covid-19 pandemic — will weaken the political leverage of minorities post-2021 redistricting…Democrats may have the wind at their backs this year, but the roadblocks Republicans have constructed over the course of the past decade are quite likely to prove insurmountable, for quite some time, no matter which party takes the White House, no matter how meaningless voters find the ballots they cast and no matter how many American voters are deprived of a voice.”

Here’s a headline you didn’t expect a few months ago: “The Republican Senate nightmare is coming true” at CNN Politics. In the article, Chris Cillizza Writes, “It’s very hard to overestimate how much of a sea change it would be for Democrats to not only capture the White House, but the Senate in November. If that came to pass, Democrats would have full control of the executive and legislative branches for the first time since 2009-2011, in the first term of President Barack Obama…And as President Donald Trump and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) have shown with their bevy of confirmed federal judges — including two Supreme Court seats — controlling the White House and the Senate allows the party in charge to make potentially generational changes…If this nightmare scenario for Republicans comes to pass, it is likely to stoke the already bubbling conversation about what a post-Trump GOP could and should look like. Unfortunately for Republicans, that conversation could well take place as their party is effectively sidelined in terms of power in Washington.”


Could Harris Help Dems Win Senate Majority?

Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate may help Democrats win a majority of the U.S. Senate. This is predicated, of course, on Harris boosting African American voter turnout in key senate races. It could happen.

As Perry Bacon, Jr. writes at FiveThirtyEight:

I don’t want to downplay Harris’s Indian American roots. But Black voters are expected to account for about 13 percent of the expected 2020 electorate, a much bigger share than Asian Americans (5 percent). Black voters are also a particularly sizable and important bloc in key swing states such as Florida (13 percent), Michigan (13 percent), North Carolina (23 percent), Pennsylvania (11 percent) and Wisconsin (5 percent.) I am addressing Harris’s potential appeal to Black voters specifically not because I think Black voters are likely to be particularly energized by a Black woman like Harris, but rather because much of the conversation around the vice presidential selection has implied that picking a Black person will create extra enthusiasm for the ticket with Black voters.

The percentage of Black voting-eligible people who cast ballots was significantly higher in 2008 (65 percent) and 2012 (66 percent), when there was a Black candidate on the ticket, compared to 2004 and 2016 (both around 60 percent) when there was not. Some political science research shows that Black people vote at higher rates when a Black candidate is on the ballot, although that finding is somewhat contested, and that research is about voting for a Black candidate at the top of the ticket, not a white candidate with a Black running mate.

So it’s not a crazy idea that Harris might boost the ticket with Black voters. It has some empirical basis. But I think the stronger case, at least based on what we know right now, is that she won’t have much of an effect in terms of Black voters.

Why not? First of all, while it happened in 2008 and 2012, it’s just really hard for Democrats to get that much more support from Black voters, who even in elections like 2004 or 2016 vote at fairly high rates (significantly higher than Asian American or Hispanic voters) and overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.

Of course the difference between “a fairly high rate” and a game-changing voter turnout can be as small as 2 percent. Imagine, on the other hand, Black voter turnout, had Biden picked a white running mate. It’s not hard to see how an all-white ticket could dampen Black voter turnout in a year characterized by massive nation-wide protests against racial injustice.

Take a look at the U.S. Senate races map below, nicked from Amber Phillips’s Aug. 7th article, “The most competitive Senate races of 2020” at WaPo’s The Fix. Note that incumbent Democratic Senate candidates in Alabama and Michigan, Sens. Doug Jones and Gary Peters, respectively, are rated “potentially-competitive.”

Does Harris on the ticket help Sens. Jones and Peters? My hunch is that it could help Jones, who owes his election to the voter mobilization efforts of African American women in Alabama. Jones ought to be a bit more optimistic today. If Harris gives the ticket a bump in Michigan, Peters could also benefit, even  though he has an African American Republican opponent. For Peters, much depends on pro-Democratic GOTV in Detroit.

But the greatest benefit Harris may provide in Senate races could be in increasing Black voter turnout in some of the 13 Republican-held seats now rated “potentially-competive.” If Democrats put some extra resources into African American GOTV in Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Houston and Dallas, they may reap a couple of upsets in senate races.

There will be skepticism about Harris’s record as a prosecutor from some Black Lives Matter activists and supporters, some of which will be offset by widening the zone of comfort for voters who like her ‘tough on crime’ record. If Harris can recapture some of the magic of her presidential campaign kick-off, Republican senate candidates will have even more to worry about.


Political Strategy Notes

Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Paul Begala, who served as a political consultant for President Bill Clinton has some strong feelings about Democratic messaging at this political moment. Begala, author of “You’re Fired: The Perfect Guide, writes in “Trump declares war on Social Security, Medicare” at CNN Opinion that Trump’s “executive action suspending collection of payroll taxes hands the Democrats the kind of issue that can sink a candidacy. It is nothing less than a declaration of war on Social Security and Medicare. The payroll tax funds those two vital and beloved programs. When you suspend collection of the revenue that funds those two programs, you endanger their viability. Say it with me, Democrats: Donald Trump wants to gut Medicare and Social Security…this is not his first attempt. His 2021 and 2020 budgets each proposed deep and painful cuts in Social Security and Medicare. How deep? How painful? $2 trillion over ten years, according to the Wall Street Journal. What a coincidence: that’s about how much Trump’s 2017 tax cut for corporate America cost. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Trump’s corporate tax cut has a price tag of $1.9 trillion...Democrats can run on this and win. I was so confident of this — even before Trump’s latest attempt to gut Social Security and Medicare, that I devote an entire chapter of my new book (YOU’RE FIRED: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump) to begging Democrats to run on Trump’s attempts to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The title of the chapter is: “This Chapter Will Beat Trump: I Guarantee It.”

Asma Khalid explains “How This Conservative Florida County Became A Surprise 2020 Battleground” at npr.org: “Duval County, a traditionally conservative area in Florida’s northeast corner along the Atlantic Ocean, hasn’t voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But in recent presidential elections, it’s begun tilting more toward the Democratic Party. In 2016, Trump won Duval County by 1.5 percentage points — one of his slimmest margins in the state…Pollsters, political scientists and party leaders all agree the county’s changing landscape is largely due to demographics and grassroots organizing. Stronger turnout among the county’s relatively large Black population combined with an influx of college-educated transplants has turned this once-reliable red county into a contested political battleground in a must-win state for Trump…In the late 1960s, Duval County and the city of Jacksonville merged into one entity, creating a large sprawling city that feels like an overgrown suburb. Trump has struggled in recent polling with suburban voters nationwide, and the same trend seems evident in Duval…Beyond demographics, activists point to the work that progressive groups like Indivisible and the New Florida Majority have been doing on the ground. Traditionally, after a midterm, the state party packs up and goes home, but after the 2018 elections, half a dozen Democratic staffers stayed on the ground to prepare for the presidential race.”

Khalid continues: “Data from the Florida Chamber of Commerce finds the two states where most Duval transplants have arrived from in recent years are New York and Pennsylvania. The assumption is these outsiders are bringing their more liberal politics to the South. Voter registration data seems to somewhat align with this theory…But the shift is not tied solely to new college-educated voters moving into the area. The new chair of the Democratic Party elected last year is a 28-year-old Black man, the youngest leader in the local party’s history. The average age in Duval is younger than many other Florida counties, and young voters tend to be more liberal…At the same time, there are some Republicans who have grown disenchanted with the president. While this frustration will not necessarily translate into votes for Biden, it has become one factor in Duval’s changing landscape…In Duval County, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the GOP still usually wins elections. Jacksonville has a Republican mayor. The GOP has a majority on the city council as well. But in 2018, Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, won Duval County — a first since the 1980s…”Arguably the single most important county in the single most important state in the most important election in a century is Duval County,” said Dean Black, the GOP county chair.”

Chris Cillizza weighs in on “The *final* Joe Biden VP rankings” at CNN Politics, and noting that “these picks are based on conversations with knowledgeable sources, reporting and just some educated guesswork.” Cillizza’s short list rankings are as follows at present: 1. Sen. Kamala Harris 2. Foprmer  UN ambassador Susan Rice 3. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 4. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Karen Bass. Regarding his bet on Harris, Cillizza writes, “She has the best combination of skills: She’s a charismatic candidate and debater who has been vetted on the national stage and would be a historic pick as the first African American and Indian American candidate on a national ticket…Does she have drawbacks? Yes. (Who doesn’t?) Her record as attorney general in California is ripe for the picking (as The New York Times noted Sunday morning). And her performance as a candidate in her own right — after an initial burst of promise — is worrisome…But net it all out, and Harris still makes the most sense for Biden.”

Amy Walter shares some thoughts concerning “What Biden Really Needs From a VP Pick” at The Cook Political Report: “At this moment of racial reckoning, it would be riskier for Biden not to choose a woman of color as his Vice President. The choice of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or Sen. Elizabeth Warren feels like the political equivalent of ‘not reading the room.’…Given Biden’s age, his VP pick will also get more attention than usual from voters. After all, it’s not inconceivable that this person will be asked to step in to take over the most stressful job in the world. This isn’t the time for outsiders. Someone who understands how Washington works — and has been a part of it — is a plus…The four most-oft mentioned Black women; former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass and Sen. Kamala Harris, all have Washington experience. But, none of them have been tested and vetted the way Harris has. She didn’t run a flawless campaign. But, she has experience on the presidential stage that the others don’t. She’s not a household name, but she is familiar. And, while she doesn’t have the depth of White House experience as Rice, she has notably less baggage.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. urges former Vice President Biden to accept the challenge presented by Trump’s ludicrous-on-so-many-levels charge that, if elected, Biden would “hurt God.” As Dionne writes in his syndicated Washington Post column, “Never has a politician accorded his opponent so much power. Last week, President Trump said that if former vice president Joe Biden won the White House, he would “hurt God.”..Wow! What supernatural chops! Trump did not specify how exactly a mere mortal could “hurt” the Almighty, but he warns Biden would create a world of “no religion, no anything.”…“He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy,” said Trump. Yes, energy sources are now polarized between red and blue, and the Supreme Being is part of it…Here’s the good news: Trump’s truly idiotic language and Biden’s own faith open new opportunities to push back against forms of religious warfare that have done grave damage both to religion and to our politics. Trump’s theology-free theology and his reduction of God to a political consultant’s role offer Biden, and progressives more generally, a large opening for reconciliation. Think of it as a Providential moment.”

Charlie Cook offers this observation at The Cook Political Report: “The data suggest though that the tolerance that voters had for Trump’s unconventional style may have ended with his handling—or mishandling—of the pandemic, and the killing of George Floyd, and subsequent nationwide demonstrations. It appears that among those outside his base, his credibility has taken a beating, his judgement and motives suspect. Trump’s ability to draw support beyond his base was predicated on keeping an economic tailwind that looks unlike to exist by November…The issue of reopening the economy brings all of these to a head. Last month, the ABC/Washington Post poll asked, “What do you think is more important—trying to control the spread of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy, or trying to restart the economy, even if it hurts efforts to control the spread of the virus?” Just 33 percent chose Trump’s oft-stated course of restarting the economy as soon as possible, while 63 percent chose the former option. In fact, 52 percent responded to a follow-up question by saying they strongly agree with the option that suggests controlling the virus, twice as many as the 26 percent who strongly wanted to reopen the economy. On one of the most important and consequential policy choices one can imagine, a large majority took the opposite view of the president. That suggests big problems.”

Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystall Ball: “We rank the top dozen Senate seats in order of their likelihood of flipping. Of the 12, 10 are held by Republicans, underscoring the amount of defense that the GOP will need to play in order to hold their majority…We have two Senate rating changes, one in favor of each party…Overall, the battle for the Senate is close, although we would probably rather be the Democrats than the Republicans at the moment. The reason is basically that, of the three decisive Toss-ups in our ratings, we would probably pick the Democrats in at least two of them right now: both Maine and North Carolina are closer to Leans Democratic than Leans Republican. If Democrats win those, as well as Arizona and Colorado (while losing Alabama), they would forge a 50-50 tie, with what they hope is a Democratic vice president breaking ties…Beyond these top races, the Democrats also have better second-tier targets than the Republicans: namely, the regular race in Georgia as well as Montana. We were prepared to add Kansas to that list, too, but Roger Marshall seems to have spared the GOP that additional headache.”

Kondik’s updated Senate map:


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats who are focusing all of their hopes on November 3rd need to recalibrate. Read “With early-voting states in mind, Trump campaign resets” by Nicole Sganga at cbsnews.com. As Sganga writes, “In Arizona, a whopping three-quarters of the electorate voted before Election Day in 2016, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, with a greater influx anticipated this year amid the coronavirus pandemic…”I know a lot of people look at the election countdown clock on our wall: it says 91 days,” Stepien told Fox News, Monday. “But ballots will be in the hands of North Carolina voters in 33 days.”…And while North Carolina is the first state to send out absentee ballots beginning on September 4, Georgia follows soon after on September 15, with Florida on September 24. Early voting begins in Arizona the first week of October…According to “Fair Fight,” a voting rights group established by former Georgia minority leader Stacey Abrams following her gubernatorial defeat, Georgia is now home to over 750,000 new voters who were not registered and eligible to vote in 2018…In the 2016 election, over 2.7 million registered voters — 28.7% of the state’s turnout — cast their ballot by mail in Florida.” Democrats  must make their supporters more aware that the presidential election begins next month in a number of key states, and mobilize their voters to bank their votes as early as possible to minimize the mess on November 3rd.

On the same topic, Jason Lemon writes in “Early Voting Starts Next Month in Battlegrounds Fla., Mich., N.C. and Pa.—And Biden Leads Trump in All 4” at Newsweek: “Absentee and mail-in-voting will begin in the key battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania next month, and President Donald Trump trails presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in each state, according to recent polls…Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania—swing states that voted for former Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before turning red for Trump in 2016—will begin sending out mail-in ballots before the end of September. In North Carolina, ballots will start being mailed out as early as September 4…Meanwhile, the current polling averages by RealClearPolitics shows Biden ahead of Trump by more than 4 points in each state. Trump trails his Democratic rival by an average of 6.2 points in Florida, 7.8 points in Michigan, 4.5 points in North Carolina and 6 points in Pennsylvania.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. eplains why “Missouri shows us a lot about health care.” As Dionne writes, “No matter how hard they tried, Republican politicians and their allies could not stop Missouri’s voters from expanding access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act…They tried to rig the timing of the referendum by forcing the vote during a relatively low-turnout primary on Tuesday rather than in November. That failed. They played on racial prejudice and nativism by falsely claiming a yes vote would mean “illegal immigrants flooding Missouri hospitals . . . while we pay for it!” That failed, too…And so did Missouri this week become the sixth state since 2017 — five of them staunchly Republican — where voters took the decision on the expansion of health coverage out of the hands of recalcitrant conservative politicians…In joining Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Maine, the place known as the “Show Me State” showed the electoral power of access to health care and the danger to President Trump and Republicans of their ongoing efforts to repeal Obamacare.”

Dionne continues “The 53 percent to 47 percent victory to extend health coverage to well over 200,000 Missourians was built on large margins in the Democratic cities of St. Louis and Kansas City. But what should disturb Republicans is that, in suburban areas, including places they had carried in the past, voters supported the referendum or opposed it by much smaller margins than the GOP is accustomed to winning…Jason Hancock, the Kansas City Star’s lead political reporter, noted that largely suburban Platte County, which narrowly supported Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in 2018, gave 61 percent of its ballots to the Medicaid expansion. And while rural Republican counties around the state voted no, the margins against the Medicaid referendum were smaller there than Trump’s advantage over Hillary Clinton in 2016…All but 12 states — eight of them in the old Confederacy — have now expanded Medicaid. And the evidence is strong that if their voters were given the chance, they, too, would decide for expansion. In May, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll found that in the states that had not accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid offer (which then included Missouri and Oklahoma), 66 percent favored expansion. “Even in red areas of red states, there is some support for expanding Medicaid,” said Liz Hamel, KFF’s director of public opinion and survey research, noting that the May survey found 37 percent of Republicans favoring the step.”

David Wasserman warns at The Cook Political Report, “Trailing Joe Biden in polls, President Trump is attacking mail-in voting as a potential source of illegal Democratic votes on a near-daily basis. But the biggest risk of a pandemic-induced crush of mail-in votes isn’t fraud, an extraordinarily rare occurrence in American elections…The real danger is a perfect catastrophe of administrative overload, postal delays and voter error that could lead to millions of absentee ballots not counting. And this year, unlike the past, those ballots are likely to be overwhelmingly Democratic…Trump’s denigration of mail-in voting, as well as differing attitudes about the seriousness of COVID-19, are poised to blow open an unprecedented partisan divide between votes cast by mail and those cast on Election Day. A July ABC/Washington Post poll found that a majority of Democrats (51 percent to 46 percent) plan to vote by mail this November, while nearly four in five Republicans (79 percent to 20 percent) still plan to vote in person…So far in North Carolina, November absentee ballot requests by registered Democrats are up 702 percent over 2016 levels but up just 48 percent among Republicans, according to data compiled by Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College…The problem for Democrats? Absentee ballots are rejected at higher rates than those cast in person. And academic studies have shown that younger voters and voters of color, some of Democrats’ most reliable voters, are much more likely to cast mail ballots that are rejected and less likely to take steps to “cure” their ballots if election officials flag them for signature problems.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes, “So now we await Biden’s decision on his veep candidate. It is still my belief that running mates are rarely of any import in the outcome of a presidential election. You have to go back 60 years to John Kennedy’s selection of Lyndon Johnson, which undoubtedly helped bring Texas into the Democratic column in a very close race. This election is hardly likely to turn on who Biden chooses. Indeed, it may not turn particularly on Biden himself; this election is pretty clearly a referendum on the incumbent and about little else. While it is true that a running mate is more likely to hurt than help, despite all of the hoopla it rarely matters at all, at least electorally…Yet given Biden’s age and the fact that he may not run for a second term in 2024, his pick is enormously important in a governing sense and in terms of the intermediate future of his party. The choice might well give the Democrats an ideological, generational, and stylistic shove in one direction or the other. After all, the last four sitting vice presidents who sought their party’s presidential nomination all won that nomination.”

“Since the World Health Organization declared an official pandemic on March 11, 37 states plus Washington, D.C., have held statewide primaries1for president or state-level office,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight. “And while those that have gone poorlyhave tended to grab the headlines, there have been success stories too. Ultimately, it’s been hard to assess how well our democracy has adapted to the pandemic. So here’s a snapshot of all 38 statewide elections since the pandemic started and what macro trends we’ve been able to observe so far…First, most states — and almost all those that actually made an effort to do so — were wildly successful at getting people to vote by mail (or at least vote before election day). In 24 out of 35 states for which we have this data, a majority of ballots were cast absentee.2 In addition, every state but one3made more use of absentee ballots than it did in the equivalent election in 2016.4 Considering what a massive logistical undertaking it is to switch to a predominantly mail election, this is an impressive achievement by election officials. (Of course, as we’ll cover below, it didn’t always go off without a hitch.)”

“Unsurprisingly,” Rakich continues, “states that mailed every voter a ballot saw the highest share of their votes cast absentee, although it’s hard to definitively say that was the reason, as these states also offered few polling places — or, in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming, no polling places at all…However, other ways of encouraging mail voting had more mixed results. For instance, in the states that just mailed voters absentee-ballot applications or instructions for how to apply for an absentee ballot, there was anywhere from 45 percent absentee participation in Delaware to 84 percent in Nebraska. (But don’t read too much into the 100 percent absentee rates in Idaho and North Dakota — they, too, eliminated in-person voting.)…What we do know is the states that did not mail voters anything to nudge them toward voting absentee (such as Illinois, with 9 percent absentee participation, and Oklahoma, with 14 percent absentee participation) tended to have the lowest shares of absentee voters, and the smallest increases from 2016. The same was true of states like Louisiana and Texas, which still required voters to provide an excuse to vote absentee. A notable exception was Wisconsin, where 75 percent of votes were cast absentee despite nothing being mailed to them. Most likely, the intense news coverage predicting doom and gloom for Wisconsin’s primary caused Wisconsinites to heed the state government’s advice and request absentee ballots; both Joe Biden’s and Bernie Sanders’s campaigns also encouraged their supporters to vote by mail.”

“There’s an important caveat here,” Rakich continues, “though: Just because the coronavirus did not lower turnout overall does not mean it didn’t disenfranchise individual voters. We know that at least some voters were unable to vote because of the pandemic…The coronavirus has put American democracy to the test — and by our reckoning, election officials have made big strides in a short period of time. But a lot of work must still be done…So where does this leave us headed into November? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, it is worth keeping in mind how states handled their primaries. But on the other hand, don’t assume a state that performed competently in the primary will do so in the general, or the inverse. They may, but the general election is also a very different beast — and, with that higher turnout, one that is much more difficult to tame. States may also learn from a bad experience during the primary and resolve to do things differently in the fall; they may have more or less funding available for November than they did for the primary, and they may tweak rules surrounding absentee-ballot or in-person voting access. Unfortunately, nobody really knows what the 2020 general election will look like — and how each state will fare.”


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lessons for Dems from John Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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