washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

One of the most challenging obstacles to Democrats holding their House of Reps majority and the speakership is, well, quitters. As Chris Cillizza writes in “Here’s why Democrats’ chances of winning in November are slipping” at CNN Politics: “House Democrats are retiring in numbers not seen in decades as a dire political outlook, new district lines and a negative environment at the US Capitol haveother combined into a toxic brew for lawmakers considering their political futures….On Tuesday, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice became the 30th Democrat to announce plans to not seek re-election in 2022. By comparison, only 13 House Republicans are planning to call it quits or seek higher office….”I entered public service 30 years ago and never left,” said Rice of her decision. “I have always believed that holding political office is neither a destiny nor a right. As elected officials, we must give all we have and then know when it is time to allow others to serve.”….The 30 House Democratic retirements are the most for the party since 1992, when a whopping 41(!) Democrats walked away from their seats. If one more House Democrat retires before the election, the 2022 cycle will tie the 1976 and 1978 election cycles as the second most retirements in modern history for the party, with 31. Democrats have already seen more retirements in this cycle than the last two elections combined.”

It’s one thing when a retirement trend is fueled by normal aging or length of service, but quite a different phenomenon when it is not. Although he does not provide any stats regarding the average age or length of service of the retirees, Cillizza does share some telling observations, including: “Amy Walter, the editor of the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign tip sheet, cites three main reasons for the Democratic exodus. First, she told me the national environment; “it’s bad out there for Democrats,” she said. Second, the weight of history; “they all know that it’s hard for party in White House to pick up seats. They can only afford to lose 5. They can do math.” And, finally the “environment” in the Capitol itself; “Talk to any member or staffer and they’ll tell you morale is low. It’s a combination of January 6th, a lack of civility, plus a frustration with a fact that most legislation is leadership driven instead of member driven.”….”I think it’s a direct result of the malaise on Capitol Hill,” said former New York Rep. Steve Israel, who previously ran the party’s House campaign committee. “Most Members decide to retire when they calculate that they might lose their next election. These days people are deciding to retire when they’re confident they will win.” Cillizza adds, “There is a solid — if not perfect — correlation between high retirement levels and House seat losses. In 1992, for example, Republicans netted 10 House seats in the general election, according to Brookings’ Vital Statistics on Congress. In 1978, the Republican gain was 15. In 1976, however, Democrats actually gained a seat despite the 31 retirements from within their ranks….Democrats’ issues are compounded by the fact that Republicans have kept their own retirements very low. If no other House Republican walks away this year, the 13 calling it quits will be the party’s lowest total since 1988.”

At least one of those retirements I can wholeheartedly applaud, that of 10-term House Democrat Tim Ryan, who will retire from his House seat, and is running for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Rob Portman. Ryan currently reps OH-13, which includes portions of Youngstown, Akron, Lordstown and the Mahoning Valley (aka “Steel Valley”). Democrats have won this district in the last 23 House elections, so prospects for holding it in November, even without Ryan, are good, given a credible Democratic candidate for the House seat. Ryan’s senate bid has been endorsed by Ohio’s other Democratic U.S. Senator, the highly-regarded Sherrod Brown, who also occupied OH-13 back in the day. Ryan does have some primary opposition. But he has to be one of the most appealing Democratic Senate candidates for 2022. A gifted orator with an impressive track record and solid center-left cred with Ohio’s white working-class voters, Ryan provides an important pick-up opportunity for Dems in a state that has been trending red in recent presidential elections. Ryan’s blistering denunciation of the Republicans abdication of democracy and his passionate endorsement of infrastructure investment resonates as the kind of authentic patriotism many voters are hoping to see more of in Democratic candidates. This could be the marquee U.S. Senate race, if Ryan wins the primary and if enough Democratic contributors step up and make sure he has adequate funding to take on the Republican senate nominee, who will be rolling in sticky corporate cash. Democrats urgently need a few more  Senate candidates like Ryan.

“Part of Biden’s dilemma is that reorienting a bureaucracy to promote competition takes time, and voters want to see inflation — running at a 40-year peak— start dropping now,” AP’s Josh Boak writes. “Voters feel the bite of inflation with every trip they make to the grocery store or the gas station, yet the president is traveling the country to discuss solutions such as competition and new infrastructure that predate the current predicament and would have a much more gradual impact….America’s current inflation woes stem from the pandemic. Supply chains for computer chips, clothes, furniture and other goods are under stress. At the same time, consumer demand has surged after a historical amount of government aid flowed into the economy. Despite efforts to get the kinks out of the supply chain, price increases have stayed high in recent months instead of fading as many initial forecasts suggested. That has the Federal Reserve ready to increase interest rates to lower inflation.” However, “in a January survey by the University of Chicago, two-thirds of leading economists said that the concentrated power of companies does not explain the current rash of inflation.” Yet, “Corporate profits after tax equaled 11.8% of the total U.S. economy in the second quarter of last year, the highest share on record going back to 1947. The Biden administration is arguing that government policy can ensure that more of that money goes to workers and customers.” At Axios, Hans Nichols and Joanathan Swan note that “Last week, the White House unveiled a three-pronged plan to fight inflation: fixing supply chains and the country’s infrastructure, lowering health and child care costs and promoting competition to benefit consumers.”

Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook explains why “Dems’ Problems Bigger Than Redistricting,” and writes: “A question I’m getting asked a lot these days is: “What does President Biden need to do to turn this midterm election around?” To many, it seems like a political version of a Rubik’s Cube, a puzzle ready and waiting to be solved with the right approach. Don’t be so sure….Surely, some Democrats have been buoyed by a bit of good news lately. Reports over the last few days from Cook Political Report with Amy Walter redistricting guru David Wasserman and others have argued that Democrats have fared better than expected in the redistricting process….While it is true that Democrats do seem to have escaped a tsunami in reapportionment and redistricting, their fundamental political troubles heading into the midterm elections have little to do with either reapportionment or redistricting….The overall political environment, including Biden’s low job-approval ratings and a big disparity in enthusiasm levels between more-energized Republicans and more-lethargic Democrats, continue to be much greater threats. The potential for a wave election has nothing to do with ink on a map and everything to do with voters’ broader concerns….So what needs to happen to save Democrats’ skin? As Doug Sosnik, who was a senior political aide in the Clinton White House, told Politico’s “Playbook,” the administration needs to control the coronavirus and inflation, return the supply chain to normal, dodge a global crisis, and hope Biden’s job approvals return to the “high 40s by summer.” Meanwhile, the GOP needs to “nominate unelectable general-election candidates and run lousy campaigns,” and “Trump and Republicans need to keep talking about the 2020 election.”…t stands to reason that between now and Election Day, we may have emerged from the coronavirus and started feeling normal again. If the Republican National Committee’s censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger this weekend for their participation on the Jan. 6 committee is any indication, Republicans may indeed give Democrats a helping hand.”

In “What Democrats And Republicans Get Wrong About Inflation” at FiveThirtyEight, Santul Nerkar writes that “there is an element of the prices we’re seeing today — and how Americans are responding to them — that could be explained by big business run amok. Philippon, whose book “The Great Reversal” focuses on how a lack of competition and corporate concentration have defined the modern American economy, told me that one reason why inflation is such a big deal in the U.S. is that prices were already so high to begin with…..“That’s not a statement about rapid inflation, it’s a statement about slowly rising profit margins that slowly choke off the middle class,” Philippon said. “One reason it’s particularly painful in the U.S. is that prices were already high, people’s purchasing power, the real value of their wages was already being eroded by market power before. Then when you add to that a burst of inflation, it’s even more painful.” ….That may explain why recent polling has found that Americans are sympathetic to arguments that attribute inflation to corporate greed, and why Biden is singing a fairly populist tune on inflation. But as with all aspects of messaging on the issue, whether Democrats or Republicans are more right on the facts of inflation has very little to do with its potential electoral impact. Prices have to stabilize for Americans to feel good about the economy — and for Democrats to feel good about their chances in 2022…..“I don’t think there’s any message that would make people feel good about 7 percent inflation,” Furman said.”

“Bills banning members of Congress from trading stocks are gaining increased bipartisan support,” reports Ellen Ioanes at Vox, “— including from a former skeptic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — after a series of investigations involving potential insider trading by lawmakers, particularly in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic….There’s wide agreement among voters that legislators should be banned from trading stocks while in Congress, since their position can give them access to information about companies and industries that ordinary people don’t have. While there are some policies in place to at least provide transparency about how legislators are making money from the stock market, there aren’t significant punishments for violating those rules….In fact, as Business Insider’s Dave Levinthal reported earlier this month, at least 55 members of Congress violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act in 2021 alone….According to Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the government watchdog group Public Citizen, public frustration with ethical issues — and widespread public support for a stock trading ban — is likely driving the current push….Ethics experts say there are abundant reasons why lawmakers should be barred from trading individual stocks, but the problem was cast into particularly stark relief by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic….Specifically, in early 2020, when many Americans suddenly lost their jobs due to the pandemic (not to mention had to deal with unexpected medical bills and child care), US senators raked in millions after placing fortuitous trades in the stock market.” Ioanes discusses several proposed reforms, including “The Ossoff-Kelly bill, which has yet to find a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate, is modeled closely on a bipartisan bill in the House, which was first introduced by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) in 2020 and reintroduced last year. That bill — the TRUST in Congress Act — doesn’t cover other asset classes like mutual funds or government bonds, as its Senate counterpart does, but would still impose substantial divestment requirements on lawmakers.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reviews U. S. Rep. Ro Khanna’s new book, new book, “Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us,” and observes that it is “a manifesto for a progressive capitalism that values both ambition and settled communities, both growth and fairness….Khanna’s goal is “to make the high-tech revolution work for everyone, not just for certain Silicon Valley leaders” and to “create opportunities for people where they live instead of uprooting them.”….He scolds policymakers for ignoring “the destabilization of local communities.”….A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Khanna endorses the social supports that liberals have long insisted are essential to a just society: health-care guarantees, “a family-supporting wage,” wide access to educational opportunities, enhanced worker rights…..But he also outlines an array of place-based approaches to make venture capital more widely available; to use the federal government’s contracting power to spread tech opportunities to rural areas; and to create “digital grant colleges” allied with traditional land-grant institutions “to bring private-sector expertise to job training.”….We need to move away from “mythologizing these tech jobs,” Khanna says, with “the worst caricatures” involving talk of “turning coal miners into coders.” In his book and in conversation, he stresses that good manufacturing jobs now require a high level of technical training because so many products, from appliances to automobiles — cars, he notes, have become “computers on wheels” — are themselves high-tech goods….Our country will miss an enormous opportunity if it doesn’t take advantage of what Khanna calls “the covid-19 realignment.” The pandemic opened up “the possibility of tech decentralization to places that have been left behind.” Remote work not only relocates jobs but, harnessed wisely, could also create opportunities “for local wealth creation.”….What’s heartening about Khanna’s way of looking at things is not just the policy creativity he’s calling for or his invocation of an old American tradition — dating to Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln — of marrying public action to widely diffused economic growth. It’s also his insistence that Democrats and progressives need to go beyond saying “America is falling apart” and advance “a hopeful, aspirational vision of America.”….“Yes, we should be for a redistribution — tax the billionaires in my district,” he says with a laugh. But the broader objective is to give everyone “the opportunity to build wealth” because “people want to aspire, they want to build things, they want to create things.”….Lord knows, we can’t count on even the wisest economic policies to wipe away our political divisions, or racism, or intolerance. But it’s bracing to hear a progressive speaking with admiration and respect for Paintsville, Ky.; Beckley, W.Va.; Jefferson, Iowa; and places like them. And if we’re ever to find our way toward a degree of social peace, Khanna’s shorthand for a better society — “prosper together and respect local communities” — seems a good place to start.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Status Anxiety Is Blowing Wind Into Trump’s Sails,” New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes that “In “Local Economic and Political Effects of Trade Deals: Evidence from NAFTA,” Jiwon Choi and Ilyana Kuziemko, both of Princeton, Ebonya Washington of Yale and Gavin Wright of Stanford make the case that the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 played a crucial role in pushing working-class whites out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party:

We demonstrate that counties whose 1990 employment depended on industries vulnerable to NAFTA suffered large and persistent employment losses relative to other counties. These losses begin in the mid-1990s and are only modestly offset by transfer programs. While exposed counties historically voted Democratic, in the mid-1990s they turn away from the party of the president (Bill Clinton) who ushered in the agreement and by 2000 vote majority Republican in House elections.

The trade agreement with Mexico and Canada “led to lasting, negative effects on Democratic identification among regions and demographic groups that were once loyal to the party,” Choi and her co-authors write….Before enactment, the Republican share of the vote in NAFTA-exposed counties was 38 percent, well below the national average, but “by 1998, these once solidly Democratic counties voted as or more Republican in House elections as the rest of the country,” according to Choi and her colleagues….Before NAFTA, the authors write, Democratic Party support for protectionist policies had been the glue binding millions of white working-class voters to the party, overcoming the appeal of the Republican Party on racial and cultural issues. Democratic support for the free trade agreement effectively broke that bond: “For many white Democrats in the 1980s, economic issues such as trade policy were key to their party loyalty because on social issues such as guns, affirmative action and abortion they sided with the G.O.P.””

Edsall continues, “The promise of economic well-being achieved through meritocratic means lies at the very heart of Western liberal economies,” write three authors — Elena Cristina Mitrea of the University of Sibiu in Romania, and Monika Mühlböck and Julia Warmuth of the University of Vienna — in “Extreme Pessimists? Expected Socioeconomic Downward Mobility and the Political Attitudes of Young Adults.” In reality, “the experience of upward mobility has become less common, while the fear of downward mobility is no longer confined to the lower bound of the social strata, but pervades the whole society.”….Status anxiety has become a driving force, Mitrea and her colleagues note: “It is not so much current economic standing, but rather anxiety concerning future socioeconomic decline and déclassement, that influences electoral behavior.”….“Socially disadvantaged and economically insecure citizens are more susceptible to the appeals of the radical right,” Mitrea, Mühlböck and Warmuth observe, citing data showing “that far-right parties were able to increase their vote share by 30 percent in the aftermath of financial crises.”

Economic insecurity translates into support for the far-right through feelings of relative deprivation, which arise from negative comparisons drawn between actual economic well-being and one’s expectations or a social reference group. Coping with such feelings increases the likelihood of rejecting political elites and nurturing anti-foreign sentiments.

The concentration of despair in the United States among low-income whites without college degrees compared with their Black and Hispanic counterparts is striking.”

Chris Cillizza provides an update on U.S. Senate races at CNN Politics, and notes, “At the moment, there are six Senate races that both sides agree are toss ups. Democrats are seeking reelection in three of those races: Arizona (Mark Kelly), Georgia (Raphael Warnock) and Nevada (Catherine Cortez Masto). Another features a Republican running for another term: Wisconsin (Ron Johnson). And two are open seats due to Republican retirements: North Carolina and Pennsylvania….Barring some sort of unforeseen cataclysm, those races will be close from now until Election Day. It’s the races at the next level of competitiveness — where one side is favored, but the other side has a shot — that could wind up determining who holds the majority come January 2023….In that next tier of Democratic-held seats is where Republicans are struggling on candidate recruitment. While New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan is still considered vulnerable, Republicans have a harder climb than they would have if Gov. Chris Sununu had run. Ditto Colorado, where the GOP seems to be nowhere in terms of recruiting a top-tier candidate to take on Sen. Michael Bennet. Now, add Maryland to that list….Democrats, by contrast, have a few longer-shot opportunities among GOP-controlled seats. They got their preferred candidates in Florida (Rep. Val Demings) and Ohio (Rep. Tim Ryan) to run, and effectively cleared the primary field for each of them. Missouri’s open seat is another longer-shot chance if Republicans nominate controversial former Gov. Eric Greitens.”

On January 31st I posted that Judge J. Michelle Childs, who who President Biden recently nominated to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court and has been listed on media short lists as a possible contender for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, had “a strong record a strong track record in support of worker rights” and “may be the potential nominee most feared by anti-labor conservatives.” Alexander Sammon , who researched Judge Child’s record more thoroughly than I did, reports at The American Prospect that “Childs’s experience is worth scrutinizing closely. As a lawyer, Childs served as an associate and then partner at Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard, from 1992 to 2000. At Nexsen Pruet, Childs worked primarily in labor and employment law, principally working on behalf of employers against allegations of racial discrimination, civil rights violations, and unionization drives….Nexsen Pruet, where Childs was a partner, has for years boasted of its anti-union services, advertising to firms hoping to keep their workplace “union-free,” “offer[ing] strength in unfair labor practice and union representation issues,” and warning against the impacts of the PRO Act, Democrats’ signature unionization bill that was included in the Build Back Better Act.” I apologize to readers for inadequate research in my post.

Political Strategy Notes

Stef W. Knight and Andrew Solender report that “Democrats snag redistricting” at Axios, and note that “Proposed maps released for New York last Sunday would knock out half of the state’s House Republicans, while giving Democrats as many as three more seats.’ In addition, “The newly enacted Illinois maps create two more blue seats, eliminating two Republican-leaning districts. Both states will lose one seat this decade because of their relatively slow population growth” and “Democrats also managed to draw favorable lines in New Mexico and Oregon, giving themselves a chance to pick up two additional seats from those states.” Further, “Democratic governors are also flexing their veto muscles in key states, with the potential to ward off Republican gerrymandering efforts in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas.” Also, “North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper used his own veto powers to block efforts by Republican state lawmakers to delay primary elections while the state Supreme Court considers the new GOP-enacted maps,”…. In Louisiana, the official redistricting process is just getting started, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards could block any Republican plan that fails to add a second Black majority district. Knight and Solender also report that Democrats won favorable court rulings in four states AL, NC, OH and PA. The arrticle quotes, Kelly Ward Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, who said “We’ve been, for years, running this comprehensive plan and really pushing to think about redistricting in this holistic way. And what you are seeing are the receipts of that strategy.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Alex Samuels and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux chew on some possible strategies for Democrats to address Republican framing of ‘culture war’ issues, and write: “So what can Democrats do in response?”….They could unravel some of the misinformation out there, reframing conversations in ways that are both truthful and potentially beneficial to them electorally. With abortion, that could mean talking about it as an issue that’s fundamentally about women’s power and autonomy. And on critical race theory,….that might look like them providing evidence on what these bans in schools really mean for public school curricula. For example, over the next several years, executive orders like the one Youngkin issued are likely to lead to teachers getting reprimanded for doing their jobs. (Youngkin, for his part, already implemented a tip line for parents to report “inherently divisive practices,” like teaching critical race theory, in schools.) So if Democrats can condemn those offenses while also reframing public discourse on those issues, public opinion — and the terms of how these debates are framed — may later be on their side….Alternatively, Democrats could coalesce around a completely different message that energizes their own base “rather than getting stuck talking about critical race theory — which is something that animates the right, and just isn’t really an issue on the left,” Arora said. Because of increasing partisan polarization, he said, it’s unlikely Republican voters’ opinion on this issue will change unless elites in their own circles say otherwise, so it may be prudent for Democrats to focus on where they can unify their own base instead….Regardless of the choice Democrats make, though, experts said that telling voters their fears and concerns about these issues aren’t real is the worst of both worlds. After all, insisting that the focus on critical race theory is just fake news will only alienate the people who believe it’s not — and it won’t do much to convince Democratic voters that they should care about the underlying issues either.” Whatever else Democratic candidates say, they should keep repeating that  Republicans use the politics of distraction to try and hide their failure to initiate any laws that actually help working families.

Adam Woillner’s “Biden is (finally) stringing together some political wins. Can it last?” at CNN Politics provides an impressive checklist Democrats can share with potential swing voters, including:

“(1) The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the US economy had added 467,000 jobs in January, well above what had been forecast.

2) Covid-19 cases nationally are down 38% from last week, according to Johns Hopkins University, while hospitalizations are down 16%. (Deaths were 7% higher, but there are signs that number is plateauing.)
3) A successful US counterterrorism raid in Syria that was months in the making resulted in the death of a top ISIS leader.
4) And on top of all that, Biden kick-started the process of filling the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Plus, the week was marked by infighting for the President’s opposition, with the Republican National Committee voting to censure two of the party’s most outspoken critics of former President Donald Trump: Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. The RNC also received swift blowback for referring to the events of January 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse.” OK, it’s just a week. But it’s a damn good week, and if Democrats don’t toot their own horn, who will?
On top of all that, check out “Democrats in Congress Are Poised to Hand Biden a Big Economic Win: The House passed the China competitiveness bill, which includes funding to shore up faltering supply chains” by Grace Segers at The New Republic. As Segers writes, “The passage of the competitiveness bill is well timed for the Biden administration. The House vote comes less than a month ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address and with the midterm elections looming, it hands the administration and congressional Democrats a significant policy victory. But the 2,900-page bill passed along party lines in the House will not be the final version. The Senate approved its own version of the bill last year, and both chambers are now expected to begin a formal conference process to forge a compromise measure that can be sent to the president’s desk, an increasingly rare occurrence in a Congress where most differences are hammered out among committee leaders before legislation even comes to a vote….The president has promoted the competitiveness bill as an opportunity for bipartisan action to counter China and strengthen the economy. “Let’s get another historic piece of bipartisan legislation done,” Biden said in a speech celebrating a new Intel semiconductor plant in Ohio last week. “Let’s do it for the sake of our economic competitiveness and our national security.” Democrats don’t really have an effective ‘message du jour’ echo chamber like the Republicans. But the six accomplishments noted above provide a good reason to rig one up.

Why Dems Must Urge Voters to Support Democracy

“Although Donald Trump has hovered over American politics since leaving office, most voters saw him as yesterday’s news,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. “Now, he’s very much today’s news, and — thanks to the accelerating pace of the House’s Jan. 6 inquiry — tomorrow’s. This should change the trajectory of this year’s midterm election politics.”

Dionne adds, “Democrats did well in 2018 and 2020, when a significant share of the electorate thought the survival of our democracy was on the ballot. Democrats need to put democracy on the ballot again this year.” Further, Dionne notes,

Trump said the subversive part out loud on Sunday when he declared that his vice president, Mike Pence, “could have overturned the election.” This acknowledged outright what Trump’s real goal was. The day before, Trump dangled the prospect of pardons for those convicted over the Jan. 6 attack if he were returned to office….the New York Times reported this week that, while president, Trump directed his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to explore whether the Department of Homeland Security or the Justice Department could legally take control of voting machines in swing states.

The stakes here involve not just what Trump did but also what Republicans might be preparing to do in 2022 and 2024. Trump is pushing to elect secretaries of state and governors who endorse his lies about 2020 and would be willing to politicize the process of counting ballots. Already, more than a dozen Republican-controlled states have rolled back ballot access.

Dionne asks, “So why are Democrats not shouting from the rooftops about the need to protect democracy?”

One reason political consultants advance: Democracy issues are a tough sell with most voters, who are far more invested in their day-to-day problems than in a former president or a threat that still feels abstract.

“Making democracy a front-and-center issue is in competition with the malaise people feel over the economy, even if there’s a lot of good news about the economy,” Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said in an interview. Voters, she added, “look at January 6 as something of a stand-alone event.”

In contrast to 2018 and 2020, said Stephanie Cutter, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked in the Obama administration, “in 2022, the threat of Trump will not be enough to make suburban women vote Democratic.”

For Democrats, this presents a dilemma: Voters care about democracy, but they are preoccupied with Covid, rising gas and grocery prices and a range of immediate concerns that affect their day-to-day lives. “Candidates are urged to take a pass on important — and potentially beneficial — issues because they are secondary or tertiary to key voting groups,” Dionne writes. “Yet the only chance such issues have of becoming salient is if politicians and their campaigns press them relentlessly.”

Republicans have scored some big wins with sheer repetition. Their candidate for Governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin provided the object lesson in November. His campaign hammered a non-issue, “critical race theory” repeatedly until it got enough buzz to influence swing voters.

The issue this year is less the threat that Trump himself presents, and more his party’s embrace of his contempt for democracy. Democrats should remember they are not campaigning against Trump the individual. They are running against his midterm lackeys, and Democratic campaign rhetoric should reflect that difference. Make Republican House and Senate candidates own their shameful abandonment of American democracy – every day between now and November 8th. Dionne adds,

Despite their caveats, both Cutter and Greenberg offer paths toward making the looming danger central in 2022. Cutter noted that highlighting bread-and-butter concerns does not preclude Democrats from arguing that “if we don’t win in 2022, the fight for democracy moves backward,” adding: “There’s room for both.”

Greenberg sees ways to link the “big lie” about 2020 with “disinformation about vaccines” as part of the same “dark force” that ignites anxiety among suburban voters. And an argument that “voters should decide elections, not mobs or politicians” would also resonate, she said, because “what people get upset about is that their votes don’t really count.”

Dionne concludes, “Democrats will be guilty of political malpractice if they fail to challenge Republicans to get off the fence. For their own sake and the country’s, they must demand that GOP candidates stand unambiguously either with or against Trump’s ongoing efforts to demolish American democracy.”

Political Strategy Notes

At Vox Sean Illing interviews Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s White House communications director and co-host of the podcast Pod Save America. Illing notes that “Pfeiffer’s a sharp political observer, but he’s also spent a lot of time thinking about something he calls the “Democratic messaging deficit.” Some  excerpts from Pfeiffer’s responses pertaining to how Democrats use media: “Our party tends to think the press will do our job for us. We think they’re going to communicate our message. But it’s our responsibility to get the message, or the news, from Joe Biden’s lips or Nancy Pelosi’s lips to the voters’ ears. And that’s not going to happen organically. It has to happen through paid advertising, through social content we generate, through progressive media, and there has been very little effort to adjust our communication strategy. We didn’t have to do this in the Trump years because Trump dominated the conversation and he made the case against himself all the time, and that was sufficient to win elections….The Republicans have spent decades building up a massive, ideologically based media apparatus. We think about it as Fox News, but it’s not just Fox News. It is Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and Daily Caller. And then there’s talk radio, which has been around for a long time and is still incredibly powerful in a lot of places. And then there’s an entire Facebook-centric digital army led by the likes of Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino that dictates the four corners of the political conversation and drowns out Democratic messaging. They have a giant army and we have just a couple people shooting spitballs to try to keep up, and we’re getting clobbered on it….Democrats can still win elections in that environment. I know that because we just did it in 2020, and in 2018. But we are competing with one hand tied behind our back when we do it….The other thing is, I think we’ve spent too much time demonizing Fox News for its propaganda. There’s this visceral reaction from a lot of people in our donor community. They don’t want to be labeled propagandists in that way. Which is why you see Democratic billionaires buying the Atlantic and Time magazine and not trying to build a non-racist, more honest, better version of Breitbart, or a Democratic Fox News, or whatever that would look like….Some of that is because Democratic progressive talk radio in the early part of the century, with Air America, didn’t really work. For a certain set of donors, that was a formative experience. The key difference is that Republican donors view their media operations more as political investments than as profit engines. Pick a digital right-wing outlet that started in the last 10 years and there’s a Republican billionaire behind it.”

On Monday, I noted the solid worker rights record of Judge J. Michelle Childs, who is reportedly on President Biden’s short list of potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. Another potential nominee on the short list, Ketanji Brown Jackson, also merits a mention as a strong supporter of worker rights, as Mark Joseph Stern reports at Slate: “Ketanji Brown Jackson may sit at the top of President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court short list, but until she gets the nod, she’ll keep plugging away at her current gig: a judge on the nation’s “second highest court,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This court has long served as a springboard to SCOTUS, which may be one reason Biden elevated Jackson to it in June. While Jackson authored myriad opinions during her eight years as a trial court judge, she had not written a single opinion for the D.C. Circuit—until Tuesday, when she made her debut in AFL-CIO v. Federal Labor Relations Authority. The case emerged from a sharp dispute between the Trump administration and organized labor over the rights of federal unions to negotiate their working conditions. And in her lucid, concise opinion, Jackson delivered an unqualified win to union rights….On the district court, Jackson exhibited a deep understanding of labor law, as well as a refreshing lack of antipathy toward unions (all too common among her Trump-appointed colleagues). At this inflection point for labor, as millions of Americans demand better working conditions and fight the decline of unions, she brings important expertise to the bench. Biden vowed to be the most pro-union president ever, and placing Jackson on the Supreme Court would certainly help to cement that legacy.”

Jeff Hauser and Max Moran explain “What Biden’s Message Should Be” at Democracy: A Journal o Ideas: “Our organization, the Revolving Door Project, has spent the last several months collaborating with polling firm Data For Progress to poll-testing a potential message for the White House to pursue, and researching the policy tools it would need to carry out a corresponding agenda. (Data For Progress has provided research and polling assistance, but the views in this article reflect only the authors’ opinions. The Revolving Door Project is a watchdog group focused on corporate influence over the federal executive branch.)….Put simply, our analysis show that Biden is in desperate need of a villain, and what that should translate into is a corporate crackdown. Biden needs to take the fight to the elite villains who are screwing the American people. He needs to tell the public who the villains are, and he needs to fight them on the people’s behalf. And the best villains available today, on both policy and politics, are predatory megafirms whose abuses harm the public….As President, Biden has unique powers that could let him generate conflict on his terms—federal investigation, prosecution, regulation, and more. These policy tools are also powerful messaging opportunities….Here, then, is the challenge for Biden: He needs villains whom he can credibly identify to the public as his adversaries and then pursue under longstanding law. He, and frontline Democrats down-ballot, need to know and believe they will be well-liked for pursuing these villains. Corporate and ultrarich lawbreakers fill that need….Our polling finds voters agree with the following statements: “Wealthy people and corporations are regularly not punished for breaking the law” and “The criminal justice system unfairly targets poor people over rich people,” by margins of +67 and +48 percentage points respectively. Majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all agreed with both sentiments. Voters supported providing more funding to federal agencies which investigate corporate lawbreaking by a margin of +49 percentage points, again with strong net support even from Republicans. These results square with other polling showing support for policies like higher taxes on the wealthy and forcing fossil fuel companies to pay for the costs of climate change adaptation.”

Hauser and Moran continue: “Democrats don’t like to hear this, but to many voters, this is a genuinely open question. We Democrats sometimes like to flatter ourselves by saying we’re “the party of labor” in America. But most of the party’s actions haven’t supported that claim for at least three decades—longer than most Millennials have been alive. Since the 1980s, Democrats and Republicans have both willingly enabled laissez-faire deregulation, corporate concentration, tax cuts for the wealthy, race-to-the-bottom trade pacts, and other hallmarks of our neoliberal age. There’s a reason many people feel that Democratic and Republican politicians are the same kind of people in different-colored ties: On far too many economic issues, they have been….This means that neither party is necessarily set up to capitalize on this populist fervor. However, only one party has been trying to in recent years—and it’s not the Democrats. Every high-profile Republican right now wants to attack the “elite.” Insurrectionist Senator Josh Hawley wrote a book railing against Big Tech, onetime establishment robot Senator Marco Rubio supported unionizing Amazon’s warehouse employees (although only to punish the firm’s alleged “wokeness”), and Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance has gone from hedge fund investor to decrying global trade pacts. Donald Trump attacked free trade agreements and wealthy “globalists” in 2016, and voters both considered him the most liberal Republican candidate in recent history, and preferred his message on the economy two months out from the election….Unfortunately, phony populism still trumps no populism at all. Any politician invoking populism with any success then gets to define who is and isn’t part of “the people,” and describe what does and doesn’t make the elite “elite.” To trump Republicans at their own game, Democrats can instead name the actual elite as their villains: CEOs, wealthy heirs, and everyone else at the top of the socioeconomic ladder who’ve pulled it up behind them. But doing so will require some hard looks in the mirror….Biden’s milquetoast messaging also lacks any narrative propulsion. If the White House does not provide political reporters with conflict, reporters will naturally look for conflict elsewhere. For example, zeroing in, as they have, on Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema  as they (particularly the former) continue to hold the President’s legislative agenda hostage to their corporatist whims….People like to see their President fighting for them, and the media want to cover such fights. When the deadly virus is no longer Biden’s go-to villain, abusive mega-corporations and the ultra-wealthy will still be around. The post-New Deal executive branch was built for cracking down on economic abuses of power—abuses that include pharmaceutical companies hoarding vaccine know-how developed through government funding….Biden’s rhetoric should instead be about fighting against big corporate malefactors on behalf of the average American. Our own polling indicates enormous support for the public policy departments Biden can use to make enemies of corporate America, and strong support for a President willing to wield them. The Department of Labor polled with a net favorability of +28 percent.”

Biden and Dems Should Stress Bipartisan Successes, Hold GOP Accountable for Polarization

From “What Message Should Biden Use in the Midterms? Blaming Republicans can only get you so far. The president needs to embrace his bipartisan successes and lay out a plan for more” by Bill Scher at The Washington Monthly:

In the 2020 presidential primaries, progressives scoffed at Biden’s repeated odes to bipartisanship. After he won the nomination and general election, some of those critics grudgingly acknowledged that his positioning was smart politics, at least for 2020. Following Biden’s January presser, The New Republic’s Alex Shephard argued that while “there was a political argument for indulging in this kind of fanciful talk” in 2020 when voters craved “a return to normalcy,” believing that Republicans would wake from “their fever-dreams and suddenly Congress would start working again” was “a theory that had no basis in reality.” Shephard praised Biden for slamming Republican obstructionism because “acknowledging the failure of bipartisanship is crucial to righting an administration that has, in recent months, gone badly off the rails.”

One problem with Shephard’s argument is that voters still want a return to normalcy. They want the pandemic to lift. They want prices to drop. And they want politicians to compromise.

In December, a poll from The Economist/YouGov found that 55 percent of voters want a congressperson who “compromises to get things done,” while 45 percent want one who “sticks to their principles, no matter what.” Well, you might say that’s just a slim majority, and appealing to the mushy middle by selling compromise won’t help energize the Democratic base. However, that majority is fueled by Democrats and liberals, as 76 percent of each camp takes the pro-compromise view. They are mostly joined by moderates (63 percent) and suburbanites (58 percent). The opponents of compromise are largely Republicans (35 percent) and conservatives (32 percent).

This is not a fluke result. Various forms of the “compromise” question have been polled in the past 12 years, and almost every time—regardless of which party holds the most power in Washington—a majority of Democrats supports compromisers and a majority of Republicans does not.

Granted, as the political scientist John Sides explained in The Washington Post back in 2019, just because people support compromise “in the abstract” does not mean they will all readily “agree to any specific compromise.” In turn, upon taking control of the Senate and the White House in January 2020, Democrats understandably proceeded on the notion that the quality of policies they delivered mattered more than parliamentary procedures and roll call vote tallies. The Democratic push to roll back the filibuster this winter did not, in and of itself, put the party at odds with its compromise-friendly base; a January Economist/YouGov poll found 76 percent of Democrats (and 54 percent of all voters) believe that the filibuster does not “promote compromise” but instead “impede[s] passing the legislation.”

But now that filibuster reform has fizzled, Democrats must run on what they achieved. As Biden noted, that largely rests on the “two real big ones”: the partisan American Rescue Plan Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In selling that record, Biden can either treat the infrastructure bill as a mere exception to the Republican obstructionist rule, which means Democrats must be kept in power if anything else is to come from Congress. Or he can tout the infrastructure package—a compromise measure that is also popular—as the strongest evidence that he got Washington to work again. With that, Biden can argue that if Congress is going to keep compromising and enact more popular bills, the current balance of power in Washington should be kept.

At a time when Biden’s job approval numbers are in the low 40s and Republicans beat Democrats in generic congressional ballot polls—on top of the fact that midterms typically go horribly for the president’s party—for Democrats to run on a strictly partisan message at odds with Biden’s declared goals of bipartisanship and compromise is a hell of a bet.

Biden can make a better choice. When he declared victory in November 2020, he said, “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make … And I believe that this is part of the mandate from the American people. They want us to cooperate. That’s the choice I’ll make.” Biden can now say he delivered on that mandate, not just by working with Republicans to pass the infrastructure bill, but also to avoid defaulting on America’s debt, to aid military veterans, and to ban imported Chinese goods made with forced Uyghur labor. All are bipartisan achievements that have often been ignored, not just by the media but also by Democrats reluctant to share the spotlight with their opposition. Yet the 117th Congress may not be done with bipartisanship: Talks between the two parties are currently under way to address election integrity and help America better compete with China.

Of course, Presidents Biden and Obama were both right to always stand for more bipartisanship. To do otherwise is to court disaster. Leadership is about bringing people together – building bridges, not walls. it’s unfair that Democrats are more frequently held accountable for failed bipartisanship. It’s as if no one expects Republicans to take any bipartisan initiatives, and so they don’t. But that’s the way it is.

On the whole, Democrats have been more open to bipartisanship than have Republicans. There are still “Blue Dogs,” but no “Red Dogs” in congress. If you had to pick only two words to explain the failure of bipartisanship in current American politics, you couldn’t do much better than “Mitch McConnell.” And yes, it would be good if Sens. Manchin and Sinema would once in a while criticize Republicans for their extremely weak track record of bipartisanship outreach. Regarding the need for getting more attention for Biden’s bipartisan successes, built-in media bias still gives conflict more coverage than cooperation.

Looking toward the midterm elections, Scher provides a good soundbite Democratic candidates ought to consider: “The strongest Democratic message is one grounded in reality: If you give Democrats control of Congress again, we will continue to work with Republicans to the greatest extent possible and will try to deliver for the American public on our own when necessary. But if you give Republicans control of Congress, you will empower Donald Trump, who will use his bullying tactics to prevent the Republican leadership from cooperating with us, and grind government to a halt.”

Political Strategy Notes

When it comes time to fill a U. S. Supreme Court seat, there is always a lot of discussion about the implications for decisions that address racial and gender justice. That’s good. Those are always leading concerns for society. But rarely is there much discussion about the implications of potential nominees regarding worker rights, which affects employees of all races. It could be different this time. President Biden has said that he will nominate an African American woman to fill the high court seat being vacated by Justice Breyer, which is good news for Americans concerned about racial injustice and reproductive rights. This year, however, at least one of the potential ‘short list’ nominees also has a strong track record in support of worker rights. Judge J. Michelle Childs, who President Biden recently nominated to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court, has also served as a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and a deputy director at the state Department of Labor. “Childs is a favorite of top Black Caucus members including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), according to two senior Democratic aides,” Nick Niedzwiadek reports at Politico.  It’s likely that all of the potential ‘short list’ nominees would be good on defending worker rights. And yes, Childs, at 56, is older than a couple other short-listers, including California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, 45 and D.C. Appeal Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51. But, if confirmed, Childs would probably serve for at least two decades. Childs, who has been called an “expert on employment law,” may be the potential nominee most feared by anti-labor conservatives, which is a plus, considering the steady erosion of unions since the Reagan Administration.

“A new justice will not dent the court’s majority of Republican-appointed justices,” as E. J. Dionne, Jr. observes in his Washington Post column. “But the coming weeks will provide an exceptional opportunity to underscore the imperative of fighting back against ideologues in robes. They are ready to do further damage to voting rights and to eviscerate the government’s ability to protect Americans through economic, labor, environmental and health regulations….It’s certainly true that the battle for a new justice provides short-term political advantages for Biden. His party has been broadly united on his picks for the judiciary up to now, so he has a good chance of a major victory after setbacks on voting rights and his social program….And in keeping his promise to name a Black woman to the court, Biden will rally core supporters even as Republicans embarrass themselves by criticizing Biden for identifying the race and gender of his future pick….It’s not a good look for the GOP, especially because the jurists on Biden’s shortlist have enormously impressive records. Don’t the Republicans have enough problems around race already?”

Amy Walter has some suggestions for “How to Survive a Wave Election” at The Cook Political Report, including: “2. Define your opponent early and often….Midterm elections are a referendum on the party in power. When things are going well, you ride that momentum. When things aren’t going well, you have to find a way to change the topic. You can’t suddenly make people care less about inflation or COVID. But, you can try to undercut the image of your opponent. Or to force them into a fight on policy/ideological turf that is more comfortable for you than them. “You are in a constant battle to keep the campaign off of the major narrative of the election,” another strategist told me. “Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to make it a character campaign, if your opponents background allows for that.” Even then, however, voters may be willing take a risk with a flawed challenger rather than sticking with an incumbent party they feel has lost its way. I remember talking to GOP campaigns back in 2006 who were flummoxed at how challenging it was to make any of their attacks on their Democratic opponents stick. Things that would have sunk their opponent in a previous cycle didn’t move the needle.” To chuck a related idea into the mix, Democrats should organize a special task force of their top oppo experts to focus on creative ways to deepen and exploit Republican divisions, which are already doing the GOP  damage in several states and congressional districts, thanks to Trump’s blundering.

At Mother Jones, Ryan Little and Ari Berman note, “During municipal elections in November, Georgia voters were 45 times more likely to have their mail ballot applications rejected—and ultimately not vote as a result—than in 2020. If that same rejection rate were extrapolated to the 2020 race, more than 38,000 votes would not have been cast in a presidential contest decided by just over 11,000 votes….In November 2021, Georgians who successfully obtained mail ballots were also twice as likely to have those ballots rejected once they were submitted compared to the previous year. If that were the case in 2020, about 31,000 fewer votes would have been cast in the presidential election….More than half of mail ballot applications were rejected because they arrived after the state’s newly imposed deadline to request them. In 2020, Georgia voters could request a mail ballot up until the Friday before Election Day; under the new law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, voters must place their requests no later than 11 days before the election, which voting rights advocates say is too early and burdensome for many voters….These rejections are having a disproportionate impact on Democratic-leaning constituencies. Black voters, who make up about a third of the electorate in Georgia, accounted for half of all late ballot application rejections, according to the voting rights group Fair Fight Action. Voters 18 to 29 made up just 2.76 percent of mail voters in 2021, but they constituted 15 percent of late ballot application rejections. Overall, four times as many Democratic voters requested mail ballots compared to Republicans, so an increase in rejections will particularly harm their party….An analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November 2021 found that rejected mail ballot applications had quadrupled compared to 2020.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden said he’d put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here’s who he may pick to replace Breyer,” Ariane de Vogue notes some of the political considerations involved in replacing Justice Breyer at CNN Politics: “With Democrats holding the narrowest of majorities in the upper chamber, Biden will have to choose someone who can safely get 50 votes in the Senate (Vice President Kamala Harris could provide the tie-breaking vote if the Senate is split on the nomination). In addition to the vote count, Biden also has to keep an eye on the calendar. Senate Republicans are likely to retake the chamber in this year’s midterms and have already signaled they would block a Biden nominee to the Supreme Court. It typically takes two to three months for a President to see his nominee confirmed by the Senate once he or she is named. The most recent justice, however, was confirmed in just a month and a half, as Senate Republicans rushed to get Justice Amy Coney Barrett approved before the 2020 election….Given the disappointments that have been recently dealt to the progressives under the Biden administration — between the congressional demise of the President’s Build Back Better proposal and his failure to find a way forward on voting rights legislation — Biden’s choice for the Supreme Court gives him the opportunity to reinvigorate the democratic base. If she is confirmed, Biden will secure a much-needed victory for his administration. De Vogue provides capsule bios of some of the ‘short list’ contenders, and there is an accompanying video. For a longer list of potential nominees, check here.

At The Wall St. Journal, Sabrina Siddiqui adds, “Although Justice Breyer’s replacement won’t change the conservative majority of the high court, the looming confirmation process follows a series of high-profile clashes between Republicans and Democrats over recent Supreme Court nominees that underscored the importance of the judiciary in determining the direction of major issues such as abortion, voting rights and immigration….Democrats hold a 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaking vote, and they only need a simple majority to fill the vacancy. Some progressives and Democratic lawmakers had publicly urged Justice Breyer to step aside and ensure his seat is filled while the party has control….House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.), a close Biden ally, said nominating a Black woman could motivate base voters and draw more attention to what the president has done to diversify the judiciary, including nominating eight Black women to serve on circuit courts, more than all of his predecessors….“If I could get the folks on my side of the aisle to stop talking about what has not been done and start talking about what has been done, his approval rating would go up,” Mr. Clyburn said.” Also at the WSJ, Ken Thomas, Eliza Collins and Natalie Andrews add, “While the White House hasn’t yet commented on any potential successors, the list of possible nominees would likely encompass several prominent Black jurists, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51 years old, a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Leondra Kruger, age 45, a justice on the California Supreme Court; and Julianna Michelle Childs, 55, a federal judge in South Carolina who has been nominated by Mr. Biden to the D.C. Circuit appeals court.”

Nathaniel Rakich explains why “Why Joe Manchin And Kyrsten Sinema Will Probably Vote For Biden’s Supreme Court Pick” at FiveThirtyEight: “The next time a Democratic senator votes no on one of Biden’s judicial picks, it will be the first time. That means that even Manchin and Sinema have 100 percent track records of supporting Biden’s judicial nominees….Democratic senators have occasionally skipped confirmation votes, which could be a convenient way to avoid casting a “no” vote. (And both Manchin and Sinema have skipped an above-average number of votes: seven for Manchin, 12 for Sinema.) We also don’t know if there are any confirmation votes Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to hold because he knew the nominee didn’t have the votes….But at the very least, Manchin, Sinema and every other Senate Democrat have been reticent to publicly express opposition to one of Biden’s nominees — and with a position as important as the Supreme Court, the pressure to toe the party line will likely be even greater….If anything, the data shows it’s more likely that a Republican might break ranks to vote for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee than that a Democrat would vote against her….”

Jonathan Bernstein writes in his article, “The Good News About Biden’s Poor Approval Ratings: Public opinion was unusually static across the last two presidencies. It’s a good thing if that’s starting to change,” at Bloomberg Opinion “Although it’s hard to say exactly why Biden has become unpopular, and there are a lot of theories out there, his numbers over time are certainly consistent with the rise and fall of the coronavirus. His approval rating began declining soon after the delta wave began, flattened out or perhaps recovered a bit when that wave ebbed, and then dropped again when omicron took hold. That’s consistent with a comparative perspective, which might note that Biden is one of several world leaders who isn’t very popular right now. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the effects of the pandemic recession and recovery, including high inflation, contributed to Biden’s slump….I continue to take the correlation between the strength of the pandemic and Biden’s approval rating as good news after two presidencies in which approval ratings were unusually static. Biden’s 13 percentage-point approval range is already larger than Trump’s was over his entire four years. It’s not yet as large as Obama’s overall, but it is larger than Obama’s range from the beginning of his second year through well into his eighth year. I suspect Obama’s narrow range during most of his presidency was caused by the unusual condition of a slow but steady recovery from the recession he inherited: Events just never seemed to drive his approval strongly in either direction. As for Trump, my guess is that he really was an unusual case of a president who permanently alienated over half the nation in his initial campaign and never really attempted to win them back. That put a cap on his popularity even during what people perceived as good times. In other words, all those things he did and said — the things that pundits often said would’ve destroyed other politicians — really did have significant negative effects.”

Political Strategy Notes

Some key findings of the new NBC News poll, conducted January 14-18, as reported by Mark Murray of nbcnews.com: “Overwhelming majorities of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, that their household income is falling behind the cost of living, that political polarizationwill only continue and that there’s a real threat to the nation’s democracy and majority rule….What’s more, the nation’s top politicians and political parties are more unpopular than popular, and interest in the upcoming November midterms is down — not up….“Downhill, divided, doubting democracy, falling behind, and tuning out — this is how Americans are feeling as they’re heading into 2022,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies….While the poll shows Democrats enjoying a narrow 1 point advantage over Republicans as the party that should control Congress, it also shows President Joe Biden’s job approval rating remaining in the low 40s, Republicans holding a double-digit edge in enthusiasm and key Democratic groups losing interest in the upcoming election….On the economy, while job creation is up and the unemployment rate is down, 61 percent of respondents in the poll say their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living. That’s compared with 30 percent who say they’re staying about even and 7 percent who say their income is going up faster than the cost of living….And on the state of democracy, a whopping 76 percent of Americans — including 7 in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents — believe there is a threat to democracy and majority rule in this country….”

Murray notes, further, “With fewer than 300 days until the November midterm elections, the NBC News poll finds 47 percent of registered voters saying they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 46 percent want Republicans in charge. But Republicans enjoy a double-digit advance on enthusiasm ahead of November’s elections, with 61 percent of Republicans saying they are very interested in the upcoming midterms — registering their interest either as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale — compared with 47 percent of Democrats who say the same….In previous midterm cycles — whether 2006, 2010, 2014 or 2018 — the party that held a double-digit advantage in enthusiasm ended up making substantial gains….And some of the biggest drops have come from key segments of the Democratic base, including Black voters, young voters and urban voters….Asked their two most important issues facing the country, the top responses from Americans were jobs and the economy (a combined 42 percent), the coronavirus (29 percent), voting rights and election integrity (25 percent), the cost of living (23 percent) and border security and immigration (22 percent)….Among Democrats, the top issues were the coronavirus, voting rights and election integrity, social and racial justice, jobs/economy and climate change….Among Republicans, the top issues were jobs/economy, border security/immigration, taxes and spending and the cost of living….Finally, the NBC News poll finds every politician and political party it tested to be more unpopular than popular with the American public…”

Nathaniel Rakich has an update on congressional redistricting at FiveThirtyEight: “Since we last took stock of redistricting in early December, eight more states — including some of the biggest and swingiest states in the country — have finalized their congressional maps for the next 10 years. In all, 26 states have now completed the congressional redistricting process (not including the six states with only one congressional district). Of the 268 congressional districts drawn so far, 128 have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of D+5 or bluer, while 119 have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of R+5 or redder. Only 21 are in the “highly competitive” category between D+5 and R+5….That’s a net gain of seven Democratic-leaning seats over the old maps in those 26 states, while the number of Republican-leaning seats has increased by only one. Since the old House map had 208 Republican-leaning seats and 181 Democratic-leaning seats overall, that means redistricting has chipped away at — though certainly not erased — Republicans’ structural advantage in House elections….the number of light-blue seats has actually increased by eight as the number of dark-blue seats has decreased by one. But that’s not because Democrats have been redistricting saints. While Republicans, who went into redistricting with a better starting position, have adopted a defensive redistricting strategy (i.e., shoring up already-red seats), Democrats have adopted an offensive strategy of maximizing the number of seats that are any shade of blue….These are the takeaways of redistricting so far — but we must emphasize the “so far.” Eighteen states have yet to finalize their new maps, and some could genuinely scramble the math above. For instance, how aggressive will Democratic cartographers be in New York? Republicans in Florida?…And then there’s the fact that even those 26 states may not be done with redistricting. Lawsuits over the new maps loom in at least eight of those states, and one other state’s map (Ohio’s) has already been overturned. Just under two-thirds of the districts whose lines are being challenged (73 out of 110) were drawn by Republicans, too, so there could be substantial upside for Democrats here — enough that some analysts believe the House’s Republican bias will disappear completely.”

Despite the downer polls, Tom Hanks rolls out a more optimistic and share-worthy view of the Biden Administration’s accomplishments: