washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Geoffrey Skelley shares the findings of a new Morning Consult poll, at FiveThirtyeight: “When given three interpretations of the word “bipartisan,” only 10 percent of voters said it involved getting broad support from voters across the political spectrum; 32 percent said it had to involve wide support among lawmakers from both parties, while 43 percent said it was best defined as including support from both lawmakers and voters across partisan divides (14 percent didn’t know or had no opinion). The poll didn’t ask voters their views on each of the three definitions separately, so we don’t know whether they would find all of them at least somewhat credible; nevertheless, they were least likely to back the White House’s characterization of bipartisanship….Yet despite not agreeing with the Biden administration’s definition of bipartisanship, voters in the Morning Consult survey did think that among the major figures in Washington mentioned, Biden was the most interested in achieving bipartisanship: 53 percent agreed that he cared about getting bipartisan support for major legislation while only 34 percent disagreed. Democrats overwhelmingly agreed with this view, of course, but so did about 1 in 5 Republicans. By comparison, less than 40 percent of voters said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cared about achieving bipartisanship, and less than 30 percent said the same of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.”

However, Skelley adds, “But how much does bipartisanship actually matter to voters? Americans have long said they prefer that the parties work together, and respondents in Morning Consult’s poll were no different. For instance, 85 percent of voters said it was very or somewhat important for legislation to have bipartisan support, 69 percent agreed that policies with bipartisan backing were the best policies, and 62 percent disagreed with the idea that it was a waste of time for politicians to seek bipartisan support. What’s more, there were no meaningful differences between how Democrats and Republicans answered these questions….However, polls also show that many Americans are willing to scrap bipartisanship if it means passing legislation that their party prefers. For instance, a 2019 poll from the Pew Research Center found that despite majorities of Democrats (69 percent) and Republicans (61 percent) saying it was very important that elected officials be willing to compromise, members of both parties thought it was more important for officials from the other party to compromise than it was for officials from their own party to do so. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats thought it was very important for Republican lawmakers to compromise compared with just 41 percent of Republicans. Likewise, 78 percent of Republicans thought it was very important for Democratic lawmakers to compromise compared with 48 percent of Democrats.”

Further, Skelley notes, “According to a 2014 study by political scientists Laurel Harbridge, Neil Malhotra and Brian F. Harrison, respondents preferred legislation when their party got more of what it wanted and when it dominated the coalition that passed the bill versus the outcomes that were more bipartisan-oriented. In fact, respondents sometimes viewed bipartisan tradeoffs as the equivalent of a legislative defeat for their party. Notably, the researchers found this effect even though they tested respondents’ attitudes on fairly noncontroversial policies — funding for NASA or legislation to make it easier for small businesses to obtain loans. That means it’s possible that these effects could be even more pronounced on more divisive legislation….In other words, voters like bipartisanship more in theory than in practice. But that doesn’t mean bipartisan support isn’t still important politically. Voters may prefer more partisan policy results, but their stated desire for bipartisanship means that politicians can still benefit by at least trying to work together. Notably, Morning Consult’s poll found that 75 percent of voters respected politicians more when they made efforts to get bipartisan support, with essentially no difference between how Democrats and Republicans answered.” Looking towards the midterm elections, “Making bipartisan appeals could also help politicians appear more moderate to the electorate, which in turn could make them more attractive to a broader slice of the public and boost their electoral chances. In 2020, for instance, the strongest-performing candidates in U.S. House elections tended to be more ideologically moderate.”

It’s important for Democrats to better understand public attitudes toward bipartisanship and what they believe it is. In “What Joe Manchin’s constituents think of his bipartisanship,” Dan Merica interviews politcal activists and operatives in West Virginia for CNN Politics. Merica notes, “As much as I appreciate Joe’s ideal — maybe that is where his heart is at and maybe that is because of his roots — there has to come a time when you have to realize (Republicans) are not going to sit down and hold hands and sing kumbaya,” said Donna Costello, the former mayor of Manchin’s hometown and a longtime friend of the Manchin family. “And you have to do what is in the best interest of what put you there.” Merica adds, “Manchin’s political positioning — often voting with Democrats but refusing to go along with the party on key issues — has rankled countless national Democrats, many of whom accuse the senator of standing in the way of needed legislation all to preserve his own political power. At best, in the eyes of these Democrats, Manchin is solely representing the views of his politically changing state. At worse, they believe, he is a politician bent on being the most important man in the Senate….But Manchin is as savvy a political operator as he is a political unicorn. Where the West Virginia Democrat’s one-time colleagues from states like Nebraska, Arkansas and South Dakota have long ago lost their seats, Manchin has held on.”

Manchin, Sinema and Democratic Party Strength in WV and AZ

Despite Democratic consternation about Sens. Manchin and Sinema refusing to modify the filibuster so their party can actually enact popular reforms, the situation may not be as hopeless as appears.

With respect to Sen. Manchin, here are some very up-to-date voter registration figures (“as of May 21, 2021”) from the Secretary of State’s office regarding political party strength in West Virginia: Democrats 35.54%; Republicans 37.83%; No Party 22.42%; Other 3.24%; Libertarian 0.77; Mountain 0.19%.

In light of these numbers, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to stereotype WV as a hopelessly “red” state?

Regarding Arizona, the AZ S.O.S. reports that the state’s registered voter stats for April 2021 are: Democrats 32.01%; Republicans 34.87%; Other 32.23%; Libertarian 0.88.

Yes, lots of self-identified Democrats in these states are relatively conservative. But why do they still call themselves Democrats, and do they really want to surrender America’s future to the party that supported the Jan. 6th coup attempt and sports “leaders” with the character flaws of Trump, McConnell, Cruz, Graham and Hawley?

Before curling up in the fetal position in unconditional surrender, Democrats might want to consider Stacy Abrams/GA-style education and mobilization campaigns in AZ and WV to persuade Sens. Manchin and Sinema that some reasonable modifications of the filibuster might be a politically-wise career move.

Political Strategy Notes

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC political correspondent, reports on the outcome of the special congressional election in New Mexico to replace now-Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, with Democrat Melanie Stansbury projected to defeat Republican Mark Moores by a similar margin to Biden’s 2020 win in that district, dispelling notions of a Republican swing.

Is a Democratic Landslide in New Mexico’s Congressional Special Election a Sign?,” Elliot Hannon asks at slate.com. Hannon explains, “The 25-point walloping appears to show that Democratic support for Biden is holding, as the party tries to hold onto its slim advantage in the House while simultaneously fighting against the American electorate’s habit of returning the opposition party to power in the House in the cycle after a newly elected president takes office. Stansbury’s opponent ran almost entirely on the rise in crime in the Albuquerque-based district in an effort to make the race a referendum on crime, a line of attack that is surely going to be front and center of the Republican election effort in 2022 amid elevated national crime rates on the tail of the pandemic.” Hannon shares Cook Political Report House editor Dave Wasserman’s tweet on the race: “Here’s my line on the #NM01 special tonight (district was Biden +23, Haaland +16 in ’20). Melanie Stansbury (D) by… >15: Dems should be very happy 10-15: about what we might expect <10: sign of a Dem turnout problem post-Trump.” However, Hannon notes, “Democrats took far more interest and invested far more resources in the race as national Republicans largely stayed on the sidelines. Stansbury raised three times more money, allowing her to blanket the local airwaves, while receiving a wave of visits from high-profile Democrats to maintain enthusiasm.”

One lesson of Stansbury’s victory over Republican Mark Moores is that a brutal GOP campaign to brand the Democrat as a “soft on crime,” defund the police liberal didn’t work at all. As Paul Waldman observed in the Washington Post, “The pulsing heart of Moores’s campaign was an absolutely horrific TV ad warning of the danger Stansbury posed, showing video of a woman being assaulted in a dark alley while the sound of children screaming played in the background. It could have come right from the early 1990s….But here’s the surprise: It didn’t work. The vote in the New Mexico election turned out to be exactly in line with the district’s recent history. In 2018, Haaland got 59 percent of the vote, in 2020 she got 58 percent of the vote, and Stansbury got 60 percent of the vote….Might it be that voters won’t respond to fear-based, “tough on crime” rhetoric in the same way they used to?…Stansbury didn’t counter the “soft on crime” attacks as Democrats have in the past, by trying to prove that they’re even tougher than Republicans. She stressed issues such as hunger, climate change and economic development that are important to her constituents. She had her own ads touting support from law enforcement — but they weren’t about supporting punitive measures to lock up more people….So this is the challenge Democrats face: They can fall back into the defensive crouch with which they are so familiar, convinced that every Republican attack must be turning voters against them. Or they can believe the evidence we’ve seen that those attacks don’t necessarily work, and keep talking about the approach they believe will produce a safer and more just society.” As Waldman notes, that’s not to say that “soft on crime” attacks won’t work in other districts.

Here’s one of Stansbury’s ads:

Political Strategy Notes

“After hopes for a bipartisan January 6 commission went down in flames on Friday, Democrats may have a new plan to investigate the attack on the Capitol: A select House committee, which would not require Republican support to establish….Such a committee would differ from the proposed bipartisan commission in several key ways, but it could still take steps to ensure accountability for those involved in the insurrection. Notably, a select committee would be composed of members of Congress rather than outside experts, and the subpoena power would function differently — but, crucially, it could also be created with only a simple majority vote in the House.” Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted, “Mitch McConnell thinks he can stop the full truth from coming out. He cannot. The House can empower a bipartisan select congressional committee to investigate the insurrection. The select committee would also have stronger subpoena power because GOP Members can’t block subpoenas.” Peters adds, “there could be fewer prospects for GOP obstruction in a select committee. In contrast to the defeated plan for an independent investigative commission, where use of the subpoena power would have required either majority support or agreement between the chair and vice chair — in other words, bipartisan agreement — Democrats on a select committee would be perfectly able to wield unilateral subpoena power.” — from “A bipartisan January 6 commission is probably dead. Democrats have a backup plan” by Cameron Peters at Vox.

Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic that a “wide range of activists…have become more and more uncertain that Democratic leaders have a strategy to overcome Manchin’s hesitance, not to mention his (and other Democrats’) refusal to pare back the filibuster, which Republicans are certain to employ against any voting-rights legislation. What’s more, these activists fear that by focusing relatively little attention on red states’ actions, Democrats aren’t doing enough to create a climate of public opinion in which Manchin and others could feel pressure to act on the issue of voting rights if and when Senate Republicans filibuster against it.” However, notes Brownstein, “Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic strategist who served as one of Biden’s chief pollsters in the 2020 campaign, seconds the argument that Biden should prioritize producing results, particularly on the economy, over raising alarms. “Right now, that’s not his job,” Lake told me. “His job is to provide the Democratic alternative and to show what we can get done,” so that voters will “say to themselves, ‘I don’t want to lose this; I don’t want to go back’” to Republican control of Congress.” Yet, “In their private conversations, activists fear that Biden, by constantly stressing his determination to work across party lines, is normalizing Republicans’ behavior even as many in the party are radicalizing. And they worry that he is so focused on producing kitchen-table results—through his big infrastructure and education and families packages—that the voting-rights agenda will slip on the Senate priority list….“We are dealing with one senator here, and the question is what do you do to persuade Senator Manchin that it is his role to protect, if not save, the democratic process?” [president of the reform group Democracy 21Fred] Wertheimer told me.”

Kerry Eleveld explains why “Biden’s clean-energy initiatives are total winners with the public and central to his jobs plan” at Daily Kos: “Fresh polling released Thursday from Navigator Research shows that fricking 78% of registered voters agree with the statement, “America should make significant investments in clean energy as part of our efforts to rebuild the economy.” That even gets majority support from GOP voters. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Democrats: 98% agree
  • Independents: 87% agree
  • Republicans: 55% agree

Even as the questioning grows more specific and Biden’s name is attached to several clean-energy initiatives within his jobs plan, nearly 70% still express support for the climate proposals….The exact question asks, “As you may know, President Biden has proposed including a number of climate-related initiatives in the ‘American Jobs Plan,’ such as investing in clean energy, like wind energy and solar power, modernizing our electric grid, increasing electric vehicle production, and ensuring everyone has access to clean air and water. Do you support or oppose including these policies in the ‘American Jobs Plan’?”….Overall, 69% of registered voters said they supported the policies, including 95% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 39% of Republicans….This is what’s known as overwhelming public support. The drop among Republicans was predictable as soon as Biden’s name was inserted into the mix. Nonetheless, nearly 40% of GOP voters still support the initiatives.”

“Bipartisanship” still gets a lot of good press from commentators who long for a return to the “I’d like like to buy the world a Coke” days of the 1960s and ’70s when there were Republican senators who were every bit as ardent in their support of civil rights, environmental protection, and robust social investment as most of their Democratic colleagues,” John Nichols writes in ‘Bipartisan’ Is How Republicans Say ‘Sucker!’ at The Nation. “But those days, and those Republicans, are long gone….The idea that there could be positive cross-party collaboration on so definitional a measure as Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a ridiculously outdated and dangerous fantasy. It may still be true that Congress can pull together in an emergency, as it did on some measures during the worst stages of the pandemic. But when it comes to forging the future, Republicans have taken cooperation for the common good off the table….If the president and Senate Democrats think they can cut deals with Senate Republicans on the existential issues of the 2020s, they are no wiser than Charlie Brown as he prepares to make one more attempt to kick the football Lucy is about to pull out from under him….For Senate Republicans, negotiating with a Democratic president is no longer an exercise in governing. It is a political strategy designed to distract, delay, and ultimately defeat Democrats….Noting that “Biden has a once in a generation opportunity to make change in this country, which is why he was elected on a bold climate mandate and began his administration with a sweeping Covid relief bill,” Sunrise’s Ellen Sciales said Thursda….“Not a single Republican senator voted for the popular and vital Covid relief package and Democrats passed it anyway,” she explains. “That’s what Democrats must do now—they must use the power vested in them by voters to do what’s needed with or without the GOP. Do not cower to Republicans. Ceding to Republicans and accepting any GOP proposal will only lead to the death of more people from extreme weather, continue the persistent under and unemployment Americans are facing, and will put in jeopardy the Democratic majority in 2022 and 2024.”

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley writes, “Despite the importance of COVID-19 to voters, Biden’s overall job approval rating has never come close to his approval rating for dealing with the pandemic, which suggests that some segments of the public approve of his work on the coronavirus but not of his job performance in the aggregate….Biden’s topline rating sits at about 55 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s approval tracker,2 about 8 percentage points lower than his approval on handling the coronavirus. And that gap has mostly widened since February….Biden is getting some credit for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, and if those good marks last, that could help Democrats in the 2022 midterms. Partisanship notwithstanding, handling a big issue well in the eyes of most voters still helps. It helps in terms of overall popularity and electorally. But the effect is greatly muted — by partisanship and by other issues.” There we have it, Democrats. The message for the last month leading up to the 2022 midterm elections should be that Democrats under Biden’s leadership did a remarkable job of cleaning up the Republican Covid-19 mess. Hit it every day, and hit it hard. Put as a question to the electorate,” Do you really want to return leadership control of congress to the party that has proved its ineptitude by mismanaging the worst public health crisis in a hundred years, and gotten hundreds of thousands of Americans killed?” It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Democrats to commission a 1/2 hour film that drives home the point: It’s less about the individual candidates, than which party is best for your family in light of America’s experience with the pandemic tragedy.

That’s not to say all of the other issues should be ignored. For example, Democrats should also remind the voting public that Republicans showed their cowardice, lack of respect for law and police, and indeed, Democracy itself, in supporting the January 6th riot in the U.S. capitol. Work the hell out of  video footage of violent thugs in the red hats, Confederate and Nazi regalia. Make Sens. Hawley, Groveling Graham and Cancun Cruz poster boys for the G.O.P., even though none of them are up for re-election in 2022. Show video of Republican candidates who are running in swing districts squirming when asked about their views of the 2006 riot. Gladys Sicknick, mother of officer Brian Sicknick, who died because of the riot, recently put it in terms Dems should emulate. As Melanie Zanona and Nicholas Wu report at Politico,  “Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day,” Gladys Sicknick said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward….Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do,” she added.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes the political ramifications of “wokeness” and shares a couple of salient observations, including this from TDS editor Ed Kilgore: “In a piece in New York magazine, “Is ‘Anti-Wokeness’ the New Ideology of the Republican Party?” Ed Kilgore makes the case that for Republicans Casting a really wide range of ideas and policies as too woke and anyone who is critical of them as being canceled by out-of-control liberals is becoming an important strategy and tool on the right — in fact, this cancel culture/woke discourse could become the organizing idea of the post-Trump-presidency Republican Party. This approach is particularly attractive to conservative politicians and strategists, Kilgore continued, because It allows them and their supporters to pose as innocent victims of persecution rather than as aggressive culture warriors seeking to defend their privileges and reverse social change.” Edsall also quotes NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt: “Wokeness is kryptonite for the Democrats. Most people hate it, other than the progressive activists. If you just look at Americans’ policy preferences, Dems should be winning big majorities. But we have strong negative partisanship, and when people are faced with a party that seems to want to defund the police and rename schools, rather than open them, all while crime is rising and kids’ welfare is falling, the left flank of the party is just so easy for Republicans to run against.”

Amid all of the hand-wringing about the tough political landscape Dems will face in the 2022 mideterms, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman limn “a silver lining for Democrats” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Last week’s Crystal Ball, which featured hypothetical ratings of the House that did not take looming redistricting into account, painted a relatively bleak picture for Democrats. We rated 19 Democratic seats as Toss-ups if no district lines changed, and just two Republican ones. Republicans need to net just five additional seats to win the House next year….However, there is at least one reason to think Democrats could be able to limit their losses next year or even hold on to the majority: The Democrats are not that overextended into hostile, Republican territory….Part of the reason why Democrats are not very overextended is that they only won 222 House seats in 2020. Democrats won 257 in 2008, and Republicans won 241 in 2016. The bigger your majority, the likelier it is that you are cutting into unfavorable turf. As such, Democrats don’t hold a lot of Trump-won territory, which could insulate them from significant losses if the political environment cooperates to at least some degree.” However, Kondik continues, “There’s one major caveat here: These numbers will change because of redistricting. Some current Democrats in Biden-won seats may find themselves in Trump-won seats, or vice versa, next year. It may also be that some current crossover district members might find themselves no longer in crossover seats, as friendly map-drawers alter their districts in ways that help them win reelection.”

Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook notes at The Cook Political Report: “This column last week analyzed an April NBC News national poll conducted by Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies—top Democratic and Republican survey firms, respectively. The data showed that, since an October poll that the two firms conducted for NBC and The Wall Street Journal, the share of Republicans who identify themselves as more loyal to Trump than to the party had declined from 54 percent to 44 percent; meanwhile, the share of those professing more loyalty to the party than to the personality had increased from 38 percent to 50 percent. Equally importantly, among those who continue to be more loyal to Trump than to the party, the share who rated their feelings for him as “very positive” declined from 91 to 75 percent, reflecting a shift toward somewhat positive or neutral feelings rather than negative. The share among those more loyal to the party than to Trump who still saw him very positively declined from 50 percent to just 31 percent, again shifting more to neutral and, to a lesser extent, to somewhat negative….Sifting through a mountain of recent data measuring the intensity of Republicans’ feelings toward Trump drew me to Economist/YouGov polling (not one of my favorite surveys, but they do ask the question I was looking for more regularly than any other). Among all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, the share rating him “very favorable” through dozens of polls last year normally landed in the mid-60s to mid-70s, reaching as high as 78 percent. Since late February, however, that number landed in the 50s in seven out of eight polls—with the lowest at 55 percent and the highest at 61 percent. The share of Republicans viewing him negatively increased only a little; the shift was primarily from very favorable to somewhat favorable….The decline of GOP enthusiasm and intensity for Trump, even while Republicans have not totally turned against him, suggests that he is increasingly seen as a quirky personality—a flawed vehicle for a powerful message that is showing no signs of abatement—and that a post-Trump Trumpism is on the horizon….I suspect you will see a party that embraced much of what Trump said but will be looking for a less-flawed candidate to push that agenda, something that Democrats might not want to see. Most Republicans, and even many of Trump’s backers, acknowledge that he was often his own worst enemy….That does not mean that the GOP is going back to what it was. It’s more likely to just go with someone new.”

The Guardian has a reader’s forum on “what do the terms ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’ actually mean?” Some of the responses reference the U.K.’s unique class consciousness; others are more brqodly applicable: “The best description I heard: the middle class shower before work, the working class shower after work. SeedAgnew“….When I see the labels working and middle class in articles, I know it means that we are usually being misled. We are too complicated, too nuanced to be pigeonholed so conveniently. That there is a ruling elite is undeniable, the rest of us are just arguing over the crumbs. WeallneedThneads….Many years ago now, it was notes and queries that provided my favourite definitions of these terms: upper class: your name on the building; middle class: your name on your desk; working class: your name on your uniform. NonDairyCanary….My (working class) husband says whether you have white pepper at home (working class) or black pepper (other) is the dividing line. This was news to me! areyoutheremoriarty….The working class worry about paying for dinner, the middle class worry about paying for the kitchen. HaveYouFedTheFish….Since you asked about coffee: working class pour the coffee; middle class drink the coffee; upper class own the plantation. Teemytooks….Jobs, wealth etc are no longer relevant to the distinction. The closest I can come is that middle class means coming from a background/family home where getting a higher education is the default expectation. HairApparent.”

The Guardian continues, “You’re working class if you get paid weekly, typically in cash. You’re middle class if you get paid monthly, as a salaried employee with benefits and a pension. This simple definition holds true over the decades as people overall, including the working class, get wealthier. You’re working poor if you’re working class but can’t ever seem to save any money for a rainy day or a holiday. MaxineMQ….I was told that working-class people keep their ketchup in the fridge, the middle classes in the larder and the upper classes don’t even know what ketchup is. beckiboo….The defining characteristic of being middle class is the presence of a safety net. You can be a middle-class bin man or van driver if you have friends or family who can help you out when things go wrong or you can be a working-class doctor or lawyer if you have no one behind you to catch you when you fall. The upper class live above a permanent safety net. Losing a job or a failed business makes no difference to your life outcome. The trust fund sees to that. Emma Rhodes….Educational status, job, where you live … all these things matter, but I think what matters most in the 21st century is a group in society defined by Paul Mason and others as the “precariat”. The key question is: if you lose your main source of earned income, are you three months or less away from destitution? If the answer is yes, you are a member of the 21st-century working class. If the answer is no, because you have savings, assets or other resources to fall back upon, you are middle class. James Atkinson.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta shares this guide for assessing the quality of political opinion polls:

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Jonathan Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford and the author of “Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide,” explained in an email how the geographic dispersion of Democratic voters may help slowly shift Republican and competitive districts in a leftward direction: Even before 2020, there was already a strong correlation between net county-level in-migration and increasing Democratic vote share. In 2020, this relationship was incredibly strong. All around the country, counties that experienced in-migration saw increases in Democratic vote share — in some cases very large increases — and places experiencing out-migration saw increases in the Republican vote share. These in-migration counties that trended Democratic were mostly suburban, and the out-migration counties that moved toward the Republicans were both urban core and rural counties….Democrats have been excessively concentrated in urban centers, which makes it difficult for them to transform their votes into commensurate legislative seats. But as cities lose population, most of the growing suburban counties are either red counties that are trending purple, or purple counties that are trending blue, and very few are overwhelmingly Democratic….Gerrymandering takes very little effort when your opponents are already geographically packed. As they spread out and mingle with your supporters, the job becomes more challenging…..Democratic suburban gains were already evident in the 2018 and 2020 elections in states like Georgia, Arizona, Texas and North Carolina….At the same time, the movement of Democratic voters from urban centers is very likely to moderate the agenda-setting strength of progressive urban voters. This process will lessen an ideological problem that plagued Democratic congressional candidates.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that the chances of passing the For the People voting right legislation “hang largely on [Sen. Joe] Manchin’s willingness to acknowledge that there is no way that enough (or even any) Republicans will support comprehensive reform of our politics….This was made clear when the Senate Rules Committee deadlocked last week on reporting the bill: nine Democratic Yeses and nine Republican Nos. As a result, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will have to bring the bill to the floor himself. He plans to because, as he told the Rules Committee, “we are witnessing an attempt at the greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow.”….We can lament that voting rights have become a partisan issue, but that’s the way things are. No amount of cajoling, compromising, begging, pleading or standing-on-your-head-and-holding-your-breath will change this. Polls showing that many rank-and-file Republicans support the S. 1 reform don’t make a difference, either….Which means that you can defend voting rights or you can defend the filibuster. You can’t do both. Manchin fears that passing a “partisan” bill on voting would further divide the country. Here’s what would divide the country even more: an election system that rolls back voting rights by endangering the ballot access of Black Americans, other minority groups and younger people.” Manchin, who knows the Republicans will not compromise on voting rights, could use his leverage to press the case for changes in the For the People Act that would make it less broad and more acceptable, at least, to him. Otherwise, Manchin will be chosing to empower Republicans and diminish his own future clout.

In his article, “Democrats Are Forgetting What’s Popular About Their Big Democracy Bill: Ditching the anti-corruption provisions of the For the People Act could turn a political winner into a partisan food fight” Kevin Robillard argues at HuffPo that “the most popular parts of the legislation have always been the provisions aimed at limiting the political influence of corporations and the ultra-wealthy. That issue has been a political winner for Democrats in each of the last two election cycles. Dozens of House candidates swore off corporate PAC money in 2018, helping the party win back control of the chamber. Then, Democrats hammered Georgia GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue with ads arguing they had used their positions to enrich themselves en route to winning Senate control in 2020….“Taking on corruption in Washington was an essential message for Democrats in taking back the House in 2018, and again in those Georgia Senate races in 2020,” said Meredith Kelly, a Democratic operative who was communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the party flipped the House three years ago. “It created a trust that Democrats would be able to finally make progress on every other issue ― the rising costs of prescription drugs, climate change.” However, “When President Joe Biden called for the passage of HR 1 in his address to Congress last month, he mentioned the need to “protect the sacred right to vote,” but not the legislation’s anti-corruption components….Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, the lead sponsor of the House version of the legislation, noted the voting rights provisions were the “most animating on both sides” of the partisan divide. But the anti-corruption measures ― which include strengthening ethics requirements for executive appointees and judges, and forcing the disclosure of anonymous political spending ― test well across party lines….“Those parts of the bill are broadly supported, even by most Republicans out there in the country,” Sarbanes said. “When you lift those up, it puts McConnell and his allies on their back foot. They know that anti-corruption sentiment is very strong, even among their own constituents.”…Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), who won her seat in 2018 thanks in part to anti-corruption messaging, said passing the legislation would boost her efforts to win reelection in what is likely to be a tough political cycle for Democrats.”

For a revealing look at unsavory political contributions, check out Isaac Arnsdorf’s “Trump Spawned a New Group of Mega-Donors Who Now Hold Sway Over the GOP’s Future,” which you can read at ProPublica and Talking Points Memo unveils a list of the former president’s most generous contributors, and notes “Over the last five years, it has become clear that former President Donald Trump has activated a new set of mega-donors who were not previously big spenders in national politics. Some of the donors appear to share the more extreme views of many Trump supporters, based on social media posts promoting falsehoods about election fraud or masks and vaccines. Whether they will deepen their involvement or step back, and whether their giving will extend to candidates beyond Trump, will have an outsized role in steering the future of the Republican Party and even American democracy….ProPublica identified 29 people and couples who increased their political contributions at least tenfold since 2015, based on an analysis of Federal Election Commission records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The donors in the table below gave at least $1 million to Trump and the GOP after previously having spent less than $1 million total. Most of the donations went to super PACs supporting Trump or to the Trump Victory joint fundraising vehicle that spread the money among his campaign and party committees….In the current system of porous campaign finance rules and lax enforcement, a handful of ultra-rich people can have dramatic influence on national campaigns.”

Political Strategy Notes

Lauren Fox, Fredreka Schouten and Rachel Janfaza  report that “Sen. Joe Manchin won’t support For the People Act, says path forward is John Lewis Voting Rights Act” at CNN Politics: “Sen. Joe Manchin will not back the For the People Act, the sweeping elections and campaign finance overhaul sought by Democrats to blunt Republican state-level efforts to restrict voting access, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Democrat confirmed Wednesday….Manchin — who had previously expressed reservations about moving forward with a far-reaching measure without bipartisan support — suggested instead using the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as the path forward….Manchin’s proposal comes just one day after the Senate Rules Committee deadlocked 9-9 along partisan lines on passing the For the People Act out of committee Tuesday, revealing the tough path ahead for the Democratic legislation, which touches on everything from rules for early voting to public funding for Senate candidates….Manchin’s suggestion for voting rights legislation — the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — is a bill far less sweeping than the For the People Act, but brings back major pieces of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, including a provision that require states to consult with the federal government before making major changes to their voting rules.” If this means that the For the People Act is not going forward, should Democrats first enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, then try to pass the most popular provisions of For the People as separate bills?

Charlie Cook shares some data about the relationship of demographic and economic realities at the Cook Political Report: “Based on data compiled by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey and his Metropolitan Policy Program team, Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman calculates that of the 100 counties with the highest percentages of college graduates, Joe Biden won 87 last year, while Donald Trump won 94 of the 100 with the lowest percentages of college graduates, losing only the ones where racial minorities were in the majority….Frey’s Brookings colleagues Mark Muro, Eli Byerly Duke, Yang You, and Robert Maxim released a report just days after last November’s election (with data updated in February), showing that while Trump carried 2,564 counties to just 520 for Biden, the counties Biden won generated 71 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, to just 29 percent for the far more numerous Trump counties. That was up from four years earlier, when counties that backed Hillary Clinton represented 64 percent of GDP while those backing Trump accounted for 36 percent….The report continued: “Democrats represent voters who overwhelmingly reside in the nation’s diverse economic centers, and thus tend to prioritize housing affordability, an improved social safety net, transportation infrastructure, and racial justice. Jobs in blue America also disproportionately rely on national R&D investment, technology leadership, and services exports.” Closing the circle, the report said, “By contrast, Republicans represent an economic base situated in the nation’s struggling small towns and rural areas.”

‘Bipartisanship’ may be a political unicorn nowadays, but the public – and even many Republicans – say they want it. “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell said at a press conference….According to a survey fielded by Vox and Data for Progress prior to McConnell’s comments,” Li Zhou writes at Vox, “some Republican voters don’t necessarily want lawmakers to do that. Instead, they maintain a focus on bipartisanship that’s consistent with past surveys — and one that looks increasingly untenable in the current Congress….Per that poll, 68 percent of all people, including 43 percent of Republicans, said they think it’s more important for GOP members of Congress to find ways to work with Biden rather than refusing to compromise. Meanwhile, 50 percent of Republicans said they were in favor of Republicans refusing to compromise, while 7 percent weren’t sure. That breakdown speaks to a general preference for bipartisanship that voters have expressed in polls in the past as well: In a Monmouth survey this past January, 71 percent of all voters also emphasized that they wanted Republicans to work with Biden, including 41 percent of Republicans.” Democratic Senator Joe Mancin currently has the loudest megaphone for bipartisanship. But so far he has used it to press the case for bipartisanship by Democrats only. Couldn’t he use at least some of his influence to push Republicans to embrace more bipartianship? Republicans are afraid he will change his position on filibuster reform. Surely he could use that fear to encourage a few of them to negotiate in good faith. That would be real bipartisan leadership.

If you are looking for bellwether political races this year, check out Virginia. As Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “The Democratic primary is now less than a month away (June 8), and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) remains well ahead of a divided field of challengers….While there are other races to watch throughout 2021 for signs about the national political environment, such as U.S. House special elections, the upcoming Virginia state elections might be the best sign we’ll get this year as to which way the political winds are blowing. Specifically, Virginia is dotted with the kinds of highly educated and diverse suburban areas that have zoomed toward the Democrats in recent years. It also has a rural, white western region where Donald Trump performed very well even in defeat. If the GOP can make a comeback in the suburbs in 2022, the first signs may come in the November results this year, and Republican performance in the rurals also will help measure Trump Republican enthusiasm without the man himself on the ballot….Brood X cicadas are emerging in parts of Northern Virginia and elsewhere this spring. They’ve been out of sight and out of mind for 17 years. The Virginia Republicans have not won a statewide race in a dozen years. If Republicans don’t win something this year, they risk extending their dry spell to cicada-like lengths….We continue to rate the Virginia gubernatorial race as Leans Democratic.”

Political Strategy Notes

For another take on William A. Galston’s article noted yesterday, read “Why Trump Still Has Millions of Americans in His Grip,” by NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall, which notes: “In “The Bitter Heartland,” an essay in American Purpose, William Galston, a veteran of the Clinton White House and a senior fellow at Brookings, captures the forces at work in the lives of many of Trump’s most loyal backers: Resentment is one of the most powerful forces in human life. Unleashing it is like splitting the atom; it creates enormous energy, which can lead to more honest discussions and long-delayed redress of grievances. It can also undermine personal relationships — and political regimes. Because its destructive potential is so great, it must be faced….Galston has grasped a genuine phenomenon. But white men are not the only victims of deindustrialization. We are now entering upon an era in which vast swaths of the population are potentially vulnerable to the threat — or promise — of a Fourth Industrial Revolution….This revolution is driven by unprecedented levels of technological innovation as artificial intelligence joins forces with automation and takes aim not only at employment in what remains of the nation’s manufacturing heartland, but also increasingly at the white-collar managerial and professional occupational structure.” Edsall goes on to document the threat of A.I., automation, “foreign-trade-induced job loss and other adverse consequences of technological change” as a politically-disruptive force, and concludes with a couple of pertinent questions: “If fully enacted, could Biden’s $6 trillion-plus package of stimulus, infrastructure and social expenditure represent a preliminary step toward providing the social insurance and redistribution necessary to protect American workers from the threat of technological innovation? Can spending on this scale curb the resentment or heal the anguish over wrenching dislocations of race, culture and class?”

In “The Republican rebrand, exposed: The Republican Party’s “working class” rebrand is a cruel hoax,” Robert Reich writes at Salon: “The Republican Party is trying to rebrand itself as the party of the working class. Rubbish. Republicans can spout off all the catchy slogans about blue jeans and beer they want, but actions speak louder than words. But let’s look at what they’re actually doing….Did they vote for the American Rescue Plan? No. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits needed by millions of American workers….So what have they voted for? Well, every single one of them voted for Trump’s 2017 tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, of which 83 percent of the benefits go to the richest 1 percent over a decade. They claimed corporations would use the savings from the tax cut to invest in their workers. In reality, corporations used their tax savings to buy back shares of their own stock in order to boost share values. And some corporations then fired large portions of their workforce. Not very pro-worker, if you ask me….What about backing regulations that keep workers safe? Nope. In fact, they didn’t bat an eye when Trump rolled back child labor protections, undid worker safeguards from exposure to cancerous radiation, and gutted measures that shield workers from wage theft….Do they support overtime? No. They allowed Trump to eliminate overtime for 8 million workers, and continue to repeat the corporate lie about “job-killing regulations.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley explains why “Biden isn’t polling well on immigration,” and notes thata new Pew Research Center report suggests immigration could prove challenging for the Biden administration….The trouble for Biden stems from the difficult conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a surge in the number of people crossing into the U.S. has reached a 20-year high. Given this situation, 68 percent of Americans told Pew that the government was doing a very or somewhat bad job of handling the number of asylum seekers at the border. Concerns about unlawful entry into the U.S. have also shot up, with 48 percent of Americans saying that “illegal immigration is a very big problem,” the highest share since 2016….overall support for giving undocumented immigrants a path to legally remain in the U.S. dropped from 75 percent in June 2020 to 69 percent in the new survey. While the drop in support was driven largely by Republicans (support fell from 57 percent last June to 48 percent) and not Democrats (support barely changed, from 89 percent to 86 percent), Democrats did show a slight increase in support for restrictive policies on other questions. For instance, the share of Democrats who said it was important to reduce the number of asylum seekers at the southern border rose from 61 percent in August 2019 to 68 percent in the new poll, and the share who wanted to make it harder for these asylum seekers to gain legal status rose from 32 percent to 39 percent in that same period….Such polling shifts are due in part to the current situation at the border, but they also reflect that public opinion is often thermostatic — that is, the public tends to become less supportive of views associated with the party in power. So we would expect, on some level, a reduction in pro-immigration attitudes because Democrats control the government right now, just as pro-immigration attitudes ticked up while Trump was in office. The question is how much immigration will once again become a driving force for Republicans — or matter for Democrats.”

Writing in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Ladan Ahmadi and David Kendall explore  “The Can’t-Miss Way to Expand Obamacare: The next logical step is a universal cost cap, guaranteeing people that they’ll never be socked with unpayable medical bills,” and write: “The solution, then, is a Universal Cost Cap that would put a limit on the out-of-pocket and out-of-paycheck costs for everyone based on their income no matter where they get their insurance. That means whether a person gets insurance through their employer, the exchanges, or Medicare or Medicaid, their deductibles, co-pays, and premiums would be capped as a portion of what they earn. The impact on Americans would be huge. It would be a major expansion, and the benefits would be unprecedented….A 2021 study published in Health Affairs found that low-income families who had ACA exchange plans with full cost caps spent 17 percent less on health-care costs and had a 30 percent less chance of having catastrophic health-care costs that could add up to decades of debt. Can you imagine how working and middle-income families would feel if the amount they paid for health coverage and care was 17 percent less than they had been paying? For a typical person with coverage through her employer, it would amount to a savings of $1,842 a year….Implementing a Universal Cost Cap would permanently end people’s financial vulnerability on health care. It would allow all families to budget their health-care costs for the year. They would have peace of mind over never having to pay more than a set amount that is affordable – no matter what….In addition to solving the cost problem for families, a Universal Cost Cap has a series of attributes that make it easy to explain to voters. It’s big and bold but builds on what we have by improving a now decade-old law that people like, with 53 percent of the public now holding a favorable view of the ACA compared to 34 percent unfavorable.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden’s Push For Big Government Solutions Is Popular Now — But It Could Backfire,” Daniel Cox writes at FicewThirtyEight that “there are other possible explanations for why Americans might want more government intervention. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have experienced multiple economic traumas, which has left them less well-off than previous generations. Whether measured in terms of homeownership, retirement savings or debt, millennials have accumulated far less wealth on average than baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) when they were the same age. As a result, millennials may be less worried about what the government is taking from them and more interested in what it can do for them. A recent Pew study bears this out. Roughly two-thirds of millennials — and 70 percent of Generation Zers (for this study, those born between 1997 and 2005) — believe government should do more to address societal problems while just under half of baby boomers agree….But if deficit spending and mounting debts no longer arouse ire among conservatives and trepidation among the public, that does not mean it never will. Reducing the deficit is not a high public priority, but a new Quinnipiac poll shows that 48 percent of Americans are worried that the Biden administration wants to spend too much money.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook rolls out “The Six Factors That Will Shape 2022,” including a couple of optimistic notes for Dems: “The best argument to be made for Democrats in the House is that since they lost 11 seats last year, their exposure is light, only seven Democrats holding seats in districts that Trump won. One law of politics that can be counted upon is that a party cannot lose a seat they don’t hold….Republicans will have to defend 20 seats, compared to Democrats’ 14. Republicans also have five open seats among their 20, which are usually harder to defend than incumbent seats. Democrats have none….Democrats have four seats up in states with The Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index of 3 points or less, meaning that the state’s vote margin is within 3 points of the national average. Republicans have five such seats. Of course, with only a single-seat margin, Democrats cannot afford any net loss at all.”

Republicans Will Punish Democrats for Every Reform They Make: But that shouldn’t stop Democrats from embracing big and sweeping changes while they can,” according to Elie Mystal, who writes at The Nation: “Unfortunately, many centrist and moderate Democrats seem paralyzed by the fear of what Republicans will do if they take back the Senate or the White House. They’re afraid to pass sweeping policy or procedural reforms because of how they think Republicans will punish Democratic politicians in the future. It’s hard to even have a debate about big, structural changes to how government functions because too many arguments devolve to “If Democrats do anything, Republicans will be super mean….Republicans are not bluffing when they promise retribution should Democrats use the power they have won. But so what? How is that any worse than what we have now?….Who in their right mind thinks Republicans won’t use all the power they have in, say, 2025 just because Democrats showed restraint in 2021? Republicans never hold their fire because they’re afraid of the Democratic response.”

“Unions communicate with their members about issues and candidates to make sure workers have information when they go to the polls on Election Day. Union members’ voter turnout is significantly higher than the general public’s,” according to a report by The Economic Policy Institute. “A study of union members finds they are 12 percentage points more likely to vote than voters who are not in a union….Other research shows that voter turnout is higher in states with greater levels of unionization….Conversely, turnout is lower in states that have adopted anti-worker “right-to-work” legislation. Right-to-work laws undermine unions’ ability to collect “fair share fees” from workers whose interests they represent. Fair share fees cover the costs of bargaining, contract administration, and grievance processes that unions are required by law to undertake on behalf of all (union and nonunion) members of a collective bargaining unit. Without fair share fees, union power degrades quickly—which is exactly what anti-union employers want. According to research by Columbia University professor Alex Hertel-Fernandez and his colleagues, the passage of right-to-work laws reduced voter turnout by 2% in presidential elections. This is not insignificant considering that in right-to-work states Michigan and Wisconsin, the losing candidate lost by less than 1 percentage point in the 2016 election.”