washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Amid all of the downer reports on voting rights, there is a bit of good news, as reported by Matt Robison at Newsweek: “On Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court threw out the Republican legislature’s ludicrously gerrymandered congressional maps. It wasn’t the final word—but the final result is going to be a lot fairer than if self-serving politicians had had their way….If Democrats can pick their chins up and pause outrage-tweeting for a moment, they will see that the Ohio win didn’t just fall out of the sky. It will make a meaningful difference in making elections actually reflect the will of the voters, and can be replicated around the country. The Democrats may not be able to pass a big, sweeping federal law to comprehensively stop abuses. But that doesn’t mean they can’t grit and grind their way to achieve many similar protections in the states….What exactly did Democrats in Ohio do? “This happened because of five years of work by a lot of people,” says former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, who helped orchestrate the effort. “Grassroots groups, good government groups, the party, we all worked together to fight back.”….As Pepper chronicles in his book Laboratories of Autocracy, a small group started out with a meeting in 2017 to devise a detailed roadmap. They recognized that by so flagrantly gorging on political gerrymandering, state Republicans had angered and energized a cadre of activists, and made moderate voters more receptive to a message of clean, fair elections….But how to leverage that? It’s hard to overcome the Catch-22 of election reform. After all, how can you pass anti-gerrymandering law in a gerrymandered legislature? How do you win races to end the rules that are designed to keep you from winning races? So the group worked around the legislature by drafting a constitutional amendment. In six months, a volunteer army gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures and forced a measure onto the ballot….They didn’t just win; they crushed. The new constitutional language, which voters ultimately approved in 2018 in a 75-25 landslide, was straightforward, clear, and fair. It required both parties to have a say in new maps, and that “the general assembly shall not pass a plan that unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.”….But that’s not the end of the story. It’s one thing to write a law, another for courts to enforce it. Ohio is a state that elects its Supreme Court Justices. So the coalition honed in on those races to make sure the new law would have a fighting chance. In 2018 and 2020, Democratic-endorsed candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court won three out of four statewide elections, moving the court from 7-0 Republican-favored judges to 4-3, even as Ohio went for Donald Trump by 8 points in 2020. And it was that new court makeup that last week upheld the ballot measure, preventing an obscenely rigged and undemocratic result.”….”We got those wins by doing what the Right does all the time, focusing on where the power was, and aggressively explaining the stakes to voters,” says Ohio-based Democratic consultant Cliff Schecter, who advised independent efforts to boost those campaigns.” More here.

In his article, “The false “trap” of bipartisanship: Fix the Electoral Count Act if you can; worry about the rest later” at Slow Boring, Matthew Yglesias writes: “Republican members of Congress seem to be increasingly interested in reaching a deal on reform of the Electoral Count Act. This is good news on several fronts….A bill with Republican Party support can pass the United States Senate, whereas a purely partisan bill will die via filibuster. It’s also good news because ECA reform is good on the merits — it won’t fix American political institutions or “save democracy,” but it will reduce the odds of a collapse, and reducing those odds is important. Passing and signing bipartisan bills also tend to be at least a little bit popular and make the president who’s doing it look good.” Yglesias notes that “This study — published in Foreign Affairs this month — says: “Put simply, there is no evidence that turnout is correlated with partisan vote choice” (Sens. Warnock and Ossoff would likely point out that there are, ahem, important exceptions). Yglesias adds, “The government should pass laws that make life easier and more convenient. Republicans are making life harder and less convenient out of a mistaken belief that this gives them a partisan advantage. But when Democrats say that a federal requirement for more early voting is necessary to “save our democracy,” Republicans hear that making it convenient to vote early helps Democrats and dooms Republicans….The way forward here is to turn the temperature way down and have some people sit in a quiet room with experts and work out a list of things that everyone can agree are pro-convenience and don’t advantage anyone. It really should be doable since there is no clear advantage here.” At The American Prospect, however, co-founder and co-editor Robert Kuttner doesn’t buy it, and writes “Sorry, but this kind of “reform” is worse than nothing. It is bipartisanship on Republican terms and it fails to address the real threats to American democracy….the last thing we need is sham reform.”

Also at The American Prospect, Editor at large Harold Meyerson argues in “How Democrats Can Dig Themselves Out of Their Current Hole” that “It will be no easy task for Joe Biden and the Democrats to extricate themselves from this hole. Certainly, passing a scaled-back Build Back Better bill would help. As for the elements left out of that bill, House Democrats in swing districts have an interesting proposal: Bring them each to a separate vote. If, as appears likely, the ultimate BBB fails to include such items as the Child Tax Credit and reducing drug prices, bring those up for votes, so at least Democrats can highlight their support for them, and Republicans’ opposition, before the November election….The Washington Post reports that House Democrats would like to begin that process ASAP, but I think the better course of action would be to let Senate Democrats winnow down BBB so that it can pass through reconciliation first, and only then take votes on its omitted popular particulars. Getting BBB enacted in any form has proved to be such a maddening, Herculean task that distractions like side votes might become just more obstacles to enactment. Once the bill is enacted, however, Democrats all but have to do what their swing-districters recommend. To not put themselves on the side of, say, reducing drug costs, while putting Republicans on the record opposing such actions, would amount to political malpractice of the highest order. The Democrats should enact what’s enactable and demand a division of the House on what’s not. Otherwise, the division of the House in the next Congress will be lopsidedly worse than Democrats currently fear—and avoidably so.”

“People feel tired and dispirited and when that happens a “throw the bums out” attitude often takes hold,” Heather Digby Parton explains at Salon. “The Washington Post’s Philip Bump argues that this shift proves the Democratic Party’s focus on Republican anti-democratic behavior has failed as a political message and that any thoughts the GOP might be permanently harmed by its complicity in January 6th simply haven’t resonated:…The polling to which he refers shows that it’s actually Republicans who believe that democracy is in danger more fervently than Democrats —because they believe Trump’s Big Lie. That doesn’t, however, mean that the Democrats’ argument isn’t landing. It just means that Democratic voters still have some faith that the system will hold. That isn’t a rejection of the argument that the Republican Party has become a toxic force. In fact, it may just mean that many voters accept that they are and simply believe that American democracy is strong enough to withstand it. (That may be naive, but it strikes me as quintessential American optimism.)…In any case, there is some other polling that seems to contradict all the agita over the Gallup findings, evidence that the media overlooked. USA Today reported this just a couple of weeks ago:

Republicans lost their lead on a generic congressional ballot, according to a new USA Today-Suffolk University poll, a red flag for the party ahead of this year’s midterm elections.The poll found Democrats leading Republicans on a generic ballot 39% to 37%, within the poll’s margin of error of 3.1 percentage points but a significant drop from Republicans’ 8-point lead in the same poll in November.

This is hard to reconcile with the reaction to the Gallup numbers and it’s impossible to know exactly what might have precipitated the drop. But these findings are no less determinative than Gallup’s, and none of it can accurately predict what’s going to happen next November….If Bump is correct and the Democrats’ legitimate alarm about the anti-democratic behavior of the GOP has been falling on deaf ears, there’s one thing that will almost certainly get the public’s attention: Donald Trump’s return. There’s no one in the country who makes that argument for the Democrats more clearly than he does.”


Political Strategy Notes

“He was a militant civil rights leader and a preacher of the Christian Gospel,” E. J. Dionne, J. writes in his Washington Post column. “He was a believer in racial concord and an agitator — in the best sense of that word — against the racism that permeated our institutions. He believed in the conversion of adversaries, but getting there often required confrontation and discomfort. King was far more a “both/and” figure than an either/or, yet the capaciousness of his worldview did not stop him from drawing clear moral lines.” And at Time, William J. Barber II writes at Newsweek, “As the nation honors Dr. King and the civil rights movement’s legacy, Democrats are hoping against the longest odds that they can unite to push back against an assault on democracy that the President calls “Jim Crow 2.0….The Beloved Community that Dr. King preached and organized toward wasn’t just an America where Black, white and brown could sit down in a restaurant together. It was the hope of a political system where the Black, white and brown masses could vote together for leaders who serve the common good….Jim Crow always had a purpose: preventing the multiethnic voting coalition that could create a more equal society….No one would put this much energy into suppressing our votes if a multiethnic coalition did not have the potential to change this nation. This MLK weekend, we must resolve to do what Dr. King noted our foreparents did during Reconstruction: unite and build a great society.”

From “Chuck Schumer’s Last Chance on Voting Rights: The talking filibuster is something the majority leader can produce—and it just might help democracy” by Bill Scher at Washington Monthly: “Democrats can’t pass their voting rights bills without bending or breaking the filibuster, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says they will try to do by next week. Exactly how is not clear. According to Politico, “Democrats are oscillating between voting on a talking filibuster or a carveout for elections reform.” Why are they torn? “Some Democrats want to preserve significant sway for the minority and prefer a talking filibuster. That would still allow the minority to gum up the Senate for weeks, but senators would have to hold the floor to do so to stop a vote at a majority threshold. Others prefer the carveout, which would allow a quicker majority vote but pare back minority rights too much for some.”….This is an easy choice if you know two things. One, Democrats don’t have the votes to change the Senate’s rules by majority vote. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose such parliamentary hardball, with Sinema on Thursday forcefully declaring her support for keeping “the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation.” Two, Schumer can bring back the talking filibuster without any vote at all….I’m not arguing that the talking filibuster is going to fix all the Democrats’ problems. I’ve shared my concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the talking filibuster, which are illustrated by the 1988 example. Just because you make the minority talk doesn’t mean the minority will budge. And when the minority can clog the floor, no other Senate business can be accomplished—no legislation, no executive branch appointments, no judicial confirmations….But right now, what is on the Democrats’ to-do list that’s so pressing? Build Back Better is stuck. Biden has 26 pending judicial nominations, but they can wait until the end of the year (so long as no Democratic senator dies from one of the nine states where the replacement could be a Republican). What better time to have a knock-down, drag-out?”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “With the Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court showing little inclination to restrain state actions—and in fact encouraging them through landmark decisions in 2013 and 2021 that weakened the federal Voting Rights Act—the failure to pass new national standards this year could clear the path for years of escalating GOP restrictions….Advocates also identify a second essential front: accountability for the efforts to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in the assault on the Capitol….frustration is growing at the failure of state and federal law enforcement to prosecute the Trump supporters behind a rising tide of physical threats against state and local election officials. (Reuters has documented more than 800 such threats in 12 states.)….with polls showing Trump’s continued appeal to the party rank and file, leaders such as Graham and Representative Kevin McCarthy quickly pivoted to stress the importance of making peace with the former president. Business groups quietly resumed contributions to the objecting legislators. (One study released this morning found that corporations have now donated more than $18 million to congressional Republicans who voted to reject the election results last January.)….Business leaders in states such as Arizona and Texas helped block some of the most extreme voter-suppression measures, and a nationwide coalition called Business for Voting Rights, which includes prominent companies such as Target, Google, and Dell, has endorsed federal voting-rights legislation. But none of the biggest national umbrella trade-business associations closely allied with the GOP, such as the Business Roundtable or the National Association of Manufacturers, has joined that effort; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a statement opposing H.R. 1 and instead called for a national bipartisan commission to study voting rules. As Kristol notes, “All the notions there would be a solid front, the business community, the Wall Street Journaleditorial page, the national-security people, saying ‘This is it,’ this is the moment when they step up,” have failed to materialize.”

In his New York times column, “The Gender Gap Is Taking Us to Unexpected Places,” Thomas B. Edsall shares some statistics and analysis that may have important implications for Democratic political strategy: “In one of the most revealing studies in recent years, a 2016 surveyof 137,456 full-time, first-year students at 184 colleges and universities in the United States, the U.C.L.A. Higher Education Research Institute found “the largest-ever gender gap in terms of political leanings: 41.1 percent of women, an all-time high, identified themselves as liberal or far left, compared to 28.9 percent of men.”….The data on college students reflects trends in the electorate at large. The Pew Research Center provided The Times with survey data showing that among all voters, Democrats are 56 percent female and 42 percent male, while Republicans are 52 percent male and 48 percent female, for a combined gender gap of 18 points. Pew found identical gender splits among voters who identify as liberal and those who identify as conservative….“Significant gender differences in party identification have been evident since the early 1980s,” according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, which provides data on the partisanship of men and women from 1952 to the present day….It’s clear from all this that the political engagement of women is having a major impact on the social order, often in ways that are not fully understood.” The data would be more useful if it included race and education. But it’s not too big of a stretch to infer that Democrats could benefit from having more women candidates, particularly those who can connect with working-class voters.


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should not be disapointed by the African American activists who refused to attend President Biden’s voting rights speech in Atlanta. Many civil rights leaders did attend and praise the President’s remarks and his strong criticism of Republican opponents of voting rights reform. But some of Georgia’s core activist leaders declined to attend. As they put it, their job is not to participate in photo ops, but to serve as the cutting edge force for voting rights. Some of them felt the President should have spoken out more forcefuly earlier and should bring more pressure on Sens. Manchin and Sinema to support the filibuster reform needed to pass the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights legislation. As former NAACP president Ben Jealous put it, “History makes it clear that, while [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was a supporter of civil rights, it took some effort to move him to make voting rights a top priority. He was lobbied by King and other civil rights leaders. And a few days before Johnson addressed Congress, voting rights activists engaged in a sit-in inside the White House. To his credit, Johnson acknowledged those who engaged in direct action. “The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro,” he told Congress. “His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this nation.” Of course, Biden doesn’t have the leverage LBJ had to get the legislation passed. But today’s Georgia voting rights activist leaders, most of whom were trained by MLK’s lieutenants, mobilized the voter education and turnout campaigns that helped elect Sens. Warnock and Ossoff. Without their tireless efforts, Biden wouldn’t be able to pass anything.

At FiveThirtyEight, Kaleigh Rogers underscores the severity of the threat to American democracy posed by the wave of state legislation to suppress voting rights and politicize the counting of votes: “This is probably the most widespread and sustained wave of voter restriction legislation since the Voting Rights Act,” said Alexander Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard University….But what’s troubling to Keyssar is not the number of bills, but the type of legislation being proposed and passed. In particular, he is concerned about bills that strip authority from election officials and grant it to partisan legislative bodies….“This is something different,” he said. “If your completely partisan state legislature is going to end up counting the votes, that’s a lot more efficient than voter suppression….The possibility of election subversion — where one party overrules the results of an election through these newly created legal levers — is of particular concern to several experts. Last September, Richard Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote a paper outlining the risk of election subversion. In it, Hasen makes the case that the Big Lie itself is a powerful enough force to open the door for election subversion, even without new laws in place….It has already led to the harassment of election officials, who are quitting their positions around the country. In their place, Big Lie-believing Trump loyalists are running for their jobs, and some have already won. It opened the door for multiple partisan “audits,” which stoke the fires of distrust while putting election infrastructure at risk. It creates an appetite and acceptance among the public and politicians to use existing means to overturn election results, just as Trump attempted to do following the 2020 election. When combined with the new laws passed to give greater partisan influence over election administration, Hasen says it creates a dangerous environment. (Hasen also outlined what he believes to be guardrails against this kind of subversion, including the universal use of paper ballots and federal rules limiting the over-politicization of election administration.)…“I never thought I’d be writing a paper like this about the United States,” Hasen told me. “I’m very worried. It’s like being an epidemiologist right as a pandemic is starting to emerge.”

In “Bernie Sanders has a plan to boost the Democrats before the midterm elections: Sanders thinks Democrats can win working-class voters by forcing Republicans to vote against progressive policies,” Zeeshan Aleem writes at msnbc.com that “The Vermont independent appears to be growing impatient, and is thinking about how Democrats are better off trying and failing to pass a bunch of popular and virtuous policies, regardless of how remote their chances of passing them are, to showcase who the Democrats and Republicans really are. While he “called for reviving a robust version of Build Back Better,” which could circumvent a filibuster, he also wants to try to get Democrats voting on individual components of the bill that progressives have tried to get into that legislation.” Sanders believes that Democrats taking a stand in support of the child tax credit, cutting prescription drug prices and a $15 federal hourly minimum wage, for example, would help Dems in the midterm elections. Aleem quotes Sanders, who explained “People can understand that you sometimes don’t have the votes. But they can’t understand why we haven’t brought up important legislation that 70 or 80% of the American people support.” Aleem quotes political analysts who see believe the idea is too risky, and concludes that “Sanders’ agenda might have its merits, but it might be better to pursue it after other options to pull in Manchin and Sinema on big-ticket items are exhausted.”

At Bloomberg Businesweek, Joshua Green writes in “How Democrats Could Hold On to the House and Defy the Pundits” that “The most common prediction among political pundits for 2022 is that Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives in November….Any upset would be predicated on one thing: a return to normalcy. Insiders agree that inflation would have to fall and Covid subside to the point where schools stay open and masks are an afterthought. “It needs to feel like 2019, not 2021,” says Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist….Since midterm performance is closely tied to the president’s approval rating, Biden would also have to lift himself out of his slump in the low 40s—particularly with independent voters. Gallup polls show his approval dropped sharply among independents from February to September, then ticked up slightly to 40% in December. Independents, unlike hardened partisans, are apt to change their minds in response to changing conditions….Indeed, even as polls show broad dissatisfaction, there are hints that better days may lie ahead. A November YouGov poll found that 74% of Americans said their lives had returned to “normal” almost two years into the Covid pandemic. If omicron and future variants don’t plunge the U.S. back to the dark days of 2020, Democrats think more people will come to share that feeling and vote accordingly….The good news, says AFL-CIO strategist Mike Podhorzer, is that the surge in Democratic votes during the Trump era was so large that the party doesn’t have to rely on persuading Republicans to defect….“The Democrats’ way out of this is to get people who didn’t show up to vote for Hillary, but did vote for Biden, to show up in November,” says Podhorzer.”


Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook takes a gander at the upcoming midterm elections and makes the case that “Idiosyncrasies of Senate Races Could Play to Dems’ Advantage.”  As Cook writes, “With only a third of the chamber’s seats up in any election, the Senate is a different ball game, its dynamics far more idiosyncratic than those in the House….Fewer races overall (and fewer still of the competitive variety) also means that unique circumstances and events in a single state can have a huge effect on which party is gaining or losing Senate seats, or for that matter, capturing, losing, or holding a majority. That is how Presidents Nixon and Reagan could win 49-state reelection victories while their party had a net loss of two Senate seats the same night, and how Democrats could score a net gain of 40 seats in the House in 2018 while suffering a net loss of one Senate seat that same night. A year ago, Democrats lost 11 seats in the House while gaining three Senate seats….With the likely matchups determined in only three of those nine states at the moment, neither side has a natural advantage. Who will face whom in those other six, which party will nominate strong candidates or more-problematic ones, matters a huge amount….So Democrats’ hopes in the Senate remain alive, but they could use some help from former President Trump and his party faithful. Trump could split the party badly in his efforts to purge the GOP of any elected officials who have not pledged and exhibited sufficient fealty to him. GOP primary voters could also nominate exotic candidates who can’t win swing districts and states, much as they did during the tea-party movement in 2010 and 2012.”

Although Democrats certainly need a project to rebuild their ‘brand,’ there is probably not enough time to do much of it for the midterm elections. That may be more of a two, or three-cycle project. It is a hell of a lot harder to ‘rebuild’ a brand than it is to trash one, and Republicans got the jump on Democrats in mining that insight. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t return the favor with an all-out campaign to discredit the GOP, as well as their candidates. It’s not like the Republican brand is all that beloved among the white working-class (non-college) voters who are about 44 percent of the national electorate (and more in key swing states and districts); it’s that a great many of these voters see Democrats as condescending elitists who talk big, but rarely deliver. Part of that perception comes from the Democratic failure to persuasively claim very real legislative accomplishments. But a lot of it comes from snobbery by some Democrats who still think of their political adversaries as “deplorables,” and it shows. Nonetheles, many Republican office-holders have serious weaknesses, including corruption (insider trading, financial mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism etc.), extremely weak track records as sponsors of enacted legislation, and few Republican senators or House members are endowed with impressive personal appeal. Their party’s image is ripe for a well-executed takedown — regardless of the President’s approval ratings or public attitudes towards the Democrats.

But the data thus far suggests that Democrats may not get much traction from increased anger toward Trump and his supporters because of their involvement in the January 6th failed coup attempt. As Kyle Kondik esplains at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “What the numbers suggest to us is that….the political effect appears to be fleeting….Trump’s overall standing with the public, though not strong, is roughly the same now as it was right before Jan. 6, 2021. Trump remains a force within the Republican Party, probably the favorite for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination if he decides to seek it, and the Republican members of Congress who backed his impeachment are vulnerable within their own party. Retaking the House and the Senate are very much on the table for Republicans later this year, and indicators such as 2021’s election results and voter registration trends are broadly positive for them….Now, it may be that the electoral environment for Republicans would be even better had Jan. 6 not happened — although it is also possible that the outrage over the 2020 election that Trump has manufactured is actually helping Republican motivation. We also do not know what new revelations about Trump, either through the House’s investigation of Jan. 6 or otherwise, may emerge, and whether those revelations will be the thing that fatally undermines Trump’s position in a way that previous revelations have not….But as of now, it does not appear as though there have been lasting, negative political consequences for Trump and Republicans because of Jan. 6.” By all means, Dems should leverage public anger about January 6th. But the other Republican failures may provide a better target for Democratic ads and messaging.

If anyone needs a fact-studded refresher briefing esplaining “How we know the 2020 election results were legitimate, not ‘rigged’ as Donald Trump claims” for your crazy uncle, Daniel Funke has a good one at USA Today. Some excerpts: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its partners said in a November 2020 statement. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”….Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said in early December 2020 that the Justice Department had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Biden won the presidency with 306 electoral votes, which Congress certified in January 2021 after the Capitol riot….”Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election – nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,”  Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican said in his address to the chamberbefore it was evacuated during the Jan. 6 insurrection….Dozens of lawsuits by Trump and his allies aimed at overturning the election, some of which inspired misinformation about results in contested states like Nevada, failed. The Supreme Court refused to take up several cases challenging results in battleground states that played a key role in the outcome of the election….In those battleground states, numerous audits and recounts have affirmed Biden’s win:

Funke provides detailed sources for all of the bebuttal points.

 


Political Strategy Notes

Today being the 1st anniversary of the failed coup by Trump and his thug minions, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne puts it in perspective in his column, ‘How to get real accountability for Jan. 6“: As Dionne writes, “One of our two major political parties refuses to face up to what happened. Worse, the Republican Party has been using Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as a pretext to restrict access to the ballot box in many GOP-controlled states and to undermine honest ballot counts by allowing partisan bodies to seize control of the electoral process….“It is important to understand Jan. 6 as a political event and not be misled by a desire to sweep our divisions under a rug woven of well-meaning wishful thinking. While condemnations of the bloody aggression initially crossed party lines, most Republican politicians either retreated into silence bred by fear of Trump or set out to minimize the assault on police officers and the vandalizing of public space as a “protest.”….The deaths of Capitol Police officers, the beating of others, the degradation of the Capitol, and the terrorizing of officials and staff were all rooted in one man’s selfish indifference to the obligations of democratic leadership. Trump provoked the attack on the counting of electoral votes because he hoped to rig an election….The tell as to how much Trump has corrupted his party is its embrace of a wholly new position on federal guarantees of voting rights….The fact that Republicans oppose federal voting guarantees is no reason to give them veto power over bills aimed at repairing abuses their fellow partisans are enacting at the state level….Accountability for the events of Jan. 6 must be legal but also political. At issue is whether we are the democratic republic we claim to be.”

Thomas B. Edsall gives big philanthropy a proper thrashing in his latest NYT column, and writes “Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York magazine, wrote an essay in late November on the dilemmas of the Biden presidency, “Joe Biden’s Big Squeeze,” in which he argued that progressive foundations “have churned out studies and deployed activists to bring left-wing ideas into the political debate. At this they have enjoyed overwhelming success. In recent years, a host of new slogans and plans — the Green New Deal, “Defund the police,” “Abolish ICE,” and so on — have leaped from the world of nonprofit activism onto the chyrons of MSNBC and Fox News. Obviously, the conservative media have played an important role in publicizing (and often distorting) the most radical ideas from the activist left. But the right didn’t invent these edgy slogans; the left did, injecting them into the national bloodstream….The grim irony is that, in attempting to court nonwhite voters, Democrats ended up turning them off. It was not only that they got the data wrong — they were also courting these “marginalized communities” in ways that didn’t appeal to them. For the reality is that the Democratic Party’s most moderate voters are disproportionately Latino and Black.” Eddall adds, “Nonprofits on the left, Chait argued, “set out to build a new Democratic majority. When the underpinnings of its theory collapsed, the movement it built simply continued onward, having persuaded itself that its ideas constituted an absolute moral imperative.”

Inasmuch as “critical race theory” is a topic likely more discussed in foundation board rooms than worker lunchrooms, union halls or family gatherings, Edsall adds, “ALG Research, the major polling firm in the Joe Biden campaign, conducted, along with Third Way, a postelection study of the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, in which Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, defeated Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee. The ALG study of swing voters, which I have reported on in past columns, found, for example, that Republican highlighting of critical race theory had a subtle effect on voters: “CRT in schools is not an issue in and of itself, but it taps into these voters’ frustrations. Voters were nearly unanimous in describing the country as divided and feeling that politics is unavoidably in their faces.” While the voters ALG studied knew that critical race theory had not been formally adopted as part of Virginia’s curriculum, the report continued, “they felt like racial and social justice issues were overtaking math, history, and other things. They absolutely want their kids to hear the good and the bad of American history, at the same time they are worried that racial and cultural issues are taking over the state’s curricula. We should expect this backlash to continue, especially as it plays into another way where parents and communities feel like they are losing control over their schools in addition to the basics of even being able to decide if they’re open or not.”

Edsall quotes fellow Times writer Jeremy Peters to good effect: Critics “have argued that Democrats are trying to explain major issues — such as inflation, crime and school curriculum — with answers that satisfy the party’s progressive base but are unpersuasive and off-putting to most other voters. The clearest example is in Virginia, where the Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, lost his election after spending weeks trying to minimize and discredit his opponent’s criticisms of public school education, particularly the way that racism is talked about. Mr. McAuliffe accused the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, of campaigning on a “made-up” issue and of blowing a “racist dog whistle.”….But, Peters continued: “about a quarter of Virginia voters said that the debate over teaching critical race theory, a graduate-level academic framework that has become a stand-in for a debate over what to teach about race and racism in schools, was the most important factor in their decision, and 72 percent of those voters cast ballots for Mr. Youngkin, according to a survey of more than 2,500 voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization.” Edsall adds, “For leaders of the Democratic Party, these developments pose a particularly frustrating problem because they pay an electoral price for policy proposals and rhetoric that are outside party control.”


Political Strategy Notes

Caroline Vakil shares “Five takeaways from polls marking Jan. 6 anniversary” at The Hill,  including: “In an ABC News-Ipsos survey published on Sunday, 72 percent of Americans polled said those who participated in the riot were mostly threatening democracy. But about a quarter of respondents said the opposite — that those engaging in the Jan. 6 attack were mostly protecting democracy…About 58 percent of those polled also said Trump bore a good amount or great deal of responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot, while 41 percent said he bore no responsibility or just some….The poll showed a partisan divide among how those involved in the Jan. 6 riot were viewed: 52 percent of Republicans believed that those involved in the attack on the Capitol were protecting democracy, while 45 percent said they were threatening democracy….Comparatively, 96 percent of Democrats felt those who participated in the riot were threatening democracy….A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published on Saturday found that one-third of Americans believe citizens engaging in violence against the government could sometimes be justified…Split along partisan lines, 40 percent of Republicans said violent actions could be justified, compared to 23 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of independents….Those who said that violent actions could be merited cited reasons such as the government violating or taking away people’s rights or freedoms, a potential military takeover, or the collapse of democracy….That percentage was an increase from those who answered similarly in a poll from October 2015, when 23 percent of those polled said the same. In April 2010 and January 2011, 16 percent of respondents said the same.”

Vakil continues, “A University of Massachusetts Amherst poll published last week showed a partisan divide in how Americans describe the participants of the Jan. 6 attack….While more than two-thirds of Democrats called those who participated in the riot “insurrectionists,” “white nationalists” and “rioters,” 62 percent of Republicans called them “protesters.”….A CBS News poll published on Sunday found that while 85 percent of Democrats polled called the Jan. 6 attack an attempt to overthrow the government and an insurrection, only 21 percent of Republicans called it an insurrection….Sixty-eight percent of Americans polled believe the Jan. 6 riot was not an isolated event and believe it is pointing toward more political violence. However, a portion of Americans — 33 percent — believe the Jan. 6 riot is an isolated circumstance….Pollsters found that an overwhelming majority of Democrats — 81 percent — said they strongly disapprove of the events at the Capitol, with 34 percent of Republicans in agreement….A Politico-Morning Consult poll released on Sunday painted a divided picture of how Republicans view the House select committee tasked with investigating the insurrection at the Capitol….It found that 44 percent of Republicans oppose the committee to some degree, while 40 percent somewhat or strongly support it. Comparatively, 82 percent of Democrats support the committee, and 61 percent of all registered voters polled approve of the House panel….But the poll also found that support for the panel dropped once it was noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nominated the committee’s members.”

“Democrats have been ineffective in selling their accomplishments, which include the soaring economy, their economic rescue plan and a historic infrastructure bill, partly because their achievements have been overshadowed by the protracted struggle over Build Back Better,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his latest Washington Post column. “The wrangling has made the whole party, including Biden, look ineffectual — and exhaustion with what seems like a forever pandemic hasn’t helped….Let’s stipulate: A media ecosystem divided between a mainstream that takes pride in nonpartisan toughness on incumbents and a powerful right-wing communications network makes life harder for Democrats. But there is little chance of changing the media narrative unless Democrats themselves shift the broader conversation….The upshot: Biden’s standing has eroded from a 56 percent Gallup approval rating in mid-June to 43 percent in December. This is problem enough, but what should worry Democrats more is that Biden’s opponents are filled with passionate intensity while his supporters are, well, meh….The Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted between Dec. 18 and Dec. 20, for example, found 43 percent of registered voters approving of Biden’s performance and 53 percent disapproving. But only 21 percent of those surveyed strongly approved of what Biden is doing, while 39 percent strongly disapproved….The disenchantment of their core supporters is the biggest problem Democrats have to deal with. Among 18- to 29-year-olds — who gave Biden a 24-point advantage over Donald Trump in 2020 — only 22 percent strongly approved of his performance in the Morning Consult survey. And while 47 percent of Democrats strongly approved of Biden’s performance, 74 percent of Republicans strongly disapproved.”

In addition, Dionne writes, “Attacking Trump is not enough. Biden and his party need to make democracy itself a central issue, starting now….This means, first, quick final passage of the democracy bills pending in the Senate. It also requires invoking the evidence from the House select committee’s Jan. 6 investigation to make clear that the threat to democracy comes not just from Trump but also from a Republican Party complicit in undermining democratic institutions, both overtly and through its silence….Biden can strengthen his own standing by championing democracy far more forcefully. This requires vigorous advocacy for the democracy bills, legal and executive action against the GOP assault on free elections, and proving democratic government’s day-to-day effectiveness….His allies in Congress should stop shilly-shallying and pass key elements of Build Back Better. With voting rights and achievements on behalf of the climate, heath care and the well-being of kids, Democrats might begin to break the fever of disillusionment….Democrats will face big losses unless they simultaneously win back middle-ground voters and mobilize their disheartened loyalists. Governing with urgency is a good place to start, but overcoming the midterm blues will require more. They must make the election about something that matters. If democracy isn’t worth fighting for, what is?”


Political Strategy Notes

Elaine Kamarck explains why “Biden can still salvage his Build Back Better bill if he settles for a piece by piece strategy” at Brookings: “is that he keeps getting bad marks for popular policies. Most Americans wanted out of Afghanistan and a majority supported the items in the Build Back Better bill, and yet, Biden is getting slammed. The way out is to change strategy. Stop putting everything into these enormous bills on the grounds that “reconciliation” is the only way to get past the Republicans in Congress, and start doing things the old-fashioned way, one bill at a time. There are two advantages to this approach. Some of the very popular provisions just might, if they were standalone bills, attract enough Republican votes to become law. And if not, Republicans would be forced to vote, on the record, against some very popular ideas and face Democratic criticism in the midterms….There are many ways to break down the massive bill into discrete and popular parts that would make it harder for the president’s opponents to message an attack. For instance, Biden could send a free-standing bill to Congress focused solely on making the increase in the child tax credit (passed in March as a part of the COVID relief bill) permanent. This is one of the most popular features of the bill, and research has shown that it has had a dramatic impact on child poverty rates. As a stand-alone bill, the messaging is clear and easy. There’s a slim chance that Democrats would win a few Republican senators but there’s a big chance that they could do some political damage to the Republicans who would vote against it. Either way, something is better than nothing.”

Kamarck continues, “Or, Biden could send Congress a free-standing bill providing four weeks of paid family and medical leave. With workers struggling to take care of family members as COVID and long COVID crash through the population, this proposal would be increasingly popular as the effects of the virus wear on. Once again, there’s a chance (albeit a slim one) that a standalone bill could muster enough Republican votes. And for the Republican senators who don’t vote for it? Well… the opposition ads write themselves….This is the case for other parts of the massive bill as well. Take the health care provisions. One of the most popular provisions, expanding Medicare to include hearing aids, has a broad base and is easy to understand. The baby boom generation isn’t dead yet but too many rock concerts have made it hard of hearing. It could be tough for a Republican senator to vote against this, but it won’t be tough for Democrats to slam them for denying grandpa hearing aids….there are plenty of popular items in this bill – but too many different policy proposals made it impossible to message. For months now we’ve watched Democrats take a very deep breath before spewing out the laundry list of items in the bill. Biden can still have a win – in fact, he can have a series of wins – if he moves away from massive bills that contain everything but the kitchen sink and toward bills that are clear and easy to understand.  Social Security, perhaps the most popular program ever created, was enacted by President Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress in a 32-page bill.”

“For a prime example of the incredible value the maligned moderate provides to their party, Democrats should look no further than Joe Biden’s 40 judicial appointments — all of whom Manchin has voted to confirm,” The Welcome Party notes at substack.com. “Thanks to Manchin, the Biden administration has already appointed more judges at this point in its tenure than any presidential administration in recent history. Not only are these appointments significantly more diverse in background than those of prior administrations, but they also provide a critical opportunity for the Democrats to shift the balance of power away from Donald Trump’s disproportionately white, male, and conservative judicial picks….Those in the party who remain ungrateful to Manchin should also revisit his:

  • Dual impeachment votes for Donald Trump, despite his constituents voting for Trump at higher rates than the GOP Senators who voted similarly
  • Enthusiastic vote for the President’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan
  • Voted against Donald Trump’s sweeping 2017 tax cuts and the GOP’s attempted repeal of Obamacare

Oh and he gave Biden an offer to spend $1.75 Trillion on “pre-k, climate, and Obamacare”. That’s $1,750,000,000,000 for Democratic priorities….To put it mildly, the differences between Manchin and MAGA are stark. Mitch McConnell couldn’t be more off-base when he argues that Manchin would fit in betterwith the GOP than with the Democrats, but that has not stopped him from getting away with doing so. At a time when Democrats should be doing everything they can to convert the handful of remaining pro-democracy Republicans (such as those who voted for Trump’s impeachment), it is both striking and problematic that the obstructionist in chief and his ever-more-authoritarian cabal are leading the charge on cross-partisan recruitment….The Democrats desperately need a big-tent, pro-democracy faction capable of appealing to cross-partisan coalitions of voters in swing districts across the country — and there’s no better place to start than with those elected officials on the center-right who clearly feel alienated from today’s radicalized GOP.”

 


Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “Quit Moping: Democrats Had a Great Record in 2021: Despite inflation, the Biden economic boom is on. Shots are getting in arms. We’re out of Afghanistan. Now, if Democrats can just get their swagger back,” at The Washington Monthly, Anne Kim writes that “when Biden entered office, the U.S. economy was in chaos, thanks to Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Unemployment was 6.8 percent, the economy was contracting, and job growth was anemic. Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March, averted a financial crisis for millions of American households through emergency stimulus checks, rent relief, and other support. It also funded school districts’ reopening efforts, propped up state and local governments facing steep budgetary shortfalls, and helped keep thousands of businesses afloat with loans and grants through programs like the Paycheck Protection Plan. The Treasury Department reports that the economy created 3 million new jobs within six months of the package’s enactment, while the nation’s economic output recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Since last November, the economy has regained 5.8 million jobs, and wages are up 3.8 percent….The American Rescue Plan included a first-ever monthly tax credit for families with children, which reduced child poverty to historic lows. In October, according to Columbia University, the child tax credit reached 61.1 million children, slashing the child poverty rate by 4.9 percent and reducing hunger among low-income families with children by as much as 25 percent….After decades of inaction (and four years of empty promises from Trump), Biden signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, upgrade energy and water systems, and connect millions of rural Americans to broadband. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which has consistently awarded U.S. infrastructure C and D grades over the past 20 years, hailedthe new law as a “historic, once in a generation investment.” Already, the first infusions of cash are headed to states and cities; the federal government recently announced the award of $3 billion in upgrades for U.S. airports, with more to come….In his debate with President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked the question that’s become the litmus test for voters ever since: “Are you better off than you were four years ago”?….In the case of Biden’s slow but steady stewardship over the past year, versus the chaos and corruption of Trump, the answer, unequivocally, is yes. Democrats should brag about their accomplishments rather than undercut their success, moping about what hasn’t yet happened. What’s important is that American families are overwhelmingly better off this year than last.”

Some insights from Charlie Cook’s latest article at The Cook Political Report: “President Biden and congressional Democrats could look back at this year with pride and accomplishment, given their passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $1 trillion infrastructure package. But instead, the first session of the 117th Congress is now in the history books, and Democrats head into the holiday season deeply demoralized, badly damaged politically, and with real reason to fear that Biden could become the fifth consecutive president to lose both Senate and House majorities on his watch…While there is still a chance that Biden and maverick Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin can reach some agreement early next year for a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act, the budget reconciliation package with major social spending and climate-change funding, the reality is that Biden and Democratic congressional leaders badly miscalculated what was realistic given the circumstances of the 2020 election outcome….Quite simply, if you want to do big things, you have to win elections big. The ambition of a party’s legislative and policy agenda should be commensurate with the magnitude of their victory. A meager victory won with the smallest of majorities demands a more modest agenda. Notwithstanding many worthy elements in what Democrats sought this year, proportionality was not to be found when comparing how Democrats did in 2020 and what they tried to do in 2021….”

Cook continues, “Biden’s 5-point popular vote win masked the fact that the relationship between the popular and electoral vote has been severed. Democrats running up the score in California and a few other populous states distort the picture about what really matters: the swing states. By that standard, this was an extremely close election, decided by a combined total of fewer than 126,000 votes scattered across four states. That is a long haul from Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson’s 44-state sweeps, with popular-vote wins of 23 and 18 points, respectively….Looking at Congress, 59 of the Senate’s 96 seats were occupied by Democrats when FDR took office. LBJ had 68 out of 100. Democrats had 313 seats in the House for FDR, 295 for LBJ….For this Congress, Democrats won their 49th seat on Jan. 5 with Raphael Warnock’s win of just under 94,000 votes over Kelly Loeffler in one Georgia runoff. The 50th came days later, as Jon Ossoff was declared the winner, by just under 55,000 votes over David Perdue. This is about as underwhelming as Senate majorities come….The 221 seats that Democrats have in the House represents a 13-seat loss in the 2020 election. Their very majority was saved by fewer than 32,000 votes in five districts. Simply put, this was a very ambiguous election result and not one from which to claim a mandate….So where are Democrats now? This past Saturday morning on SiriusXM’s The Trendline with Kristen Soltis Anderson, my colleague David Wasserman told the host, a highly regarded Republican pollster, that a net Democratic loss in the House of between 20 and 40 seats was quite possible. The Senate is far too murky to even hazard a guess.”

“It’s time for Democrats and the media to stop bashing Joe Manchin and to start bashing the other 50 members of the U.S. Senate who are keeping the public’s business from getting done—the Republicans. Especially bash-worthy are three world-class phonies named Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Lisa Murkowski,” Robert Kuttner writes at The American Prospect. “These alleged moderates vote in lockstep with Mitch McConnell and the Trumpers. Once, Collins actually was sort of moderate. She is said to be worried that if she breaks with the MAGA gang, she would likely be defeated in a primary. But in independent Maine, Collins would win in a walk running as an independent….Murkowski might do better in Alaska as an independent in a three-way contest, as well. Romney, who was a centrist Republican when he was governor of Massachusetts, will have to look to his own conscience as an enabler of outright fascism….If even one of them broke ranks and worked across the aisle, Manchin would suddenly be a lot less powerful.” Collins and Romney probably lack the intestinal fortitude to challenge their party and become Independents. But Murkowski has occasionally shown some mettle and flashes of humanity. One of 7 Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, she said, “if the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me.” And, really, this isn’t her father’s Republican party any more. Murkowski has the smarts to see that, if she merely declared herself to be an Independent, she could suddenly become the most powerful U.S. Senator. It would put her in position to bring home some serious bacon for her constituents in Alaska, not just in BBB —  it would also give her unique leverage in future legislative battles.


Political Strategy Notes

Political predictions are always dicey. But, at FiveThirtyEight Geoffrey Skelley reports, “Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters Wednesday that suggestions he would leave the Democratic Party were “bullshit” with a “capital B.” He’d previously told Democratic leaders that he’d consider becoming an independent if they felt it would help them explain to the public why the party was having such a hard time coming to an agreement on its social spending plans, but he denied that he’d made threats about leaving the party….if Manchin did switch parties, it would, more likely than not, mean an immediate loss of clout for him in Congress, which is perhaps the biggest reason Manchin is likely to stay put….For starters, party switches are actually rare. Since 1951, just 34 sitting members of Congress have switched parties (four did so twice, for a total of 38 switches). And as the table below shows, most members who switched parties still ran for reelection or another office after changing their partisan stripes….Electoral calculations seem to have guided many of these members’ decisions to change parties, too. In his study of party switchers, political scientist Antoine Yoshinaka found that members were more likely to switch parties when they represented areas where their old party performed poorly — though they were most likely to switch if they intended on seeking a higher office in the future. However, troublingly for Manchin, Yoshinaka didn’t find that these switches necessarily paid off. In fact, he found party-switchers performed 4 to 9 percentage points worse in their next general election than non-switchers between 1952 and 2010. …And despite a blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections, Manchin won reelection by his slimmest margin yet — about 3 points. Moreover, running as a Republican isn’t really an option for Manchin. It’s true that he scores well among Republican voters in West Virginia — a Morning Consult poll recently found 44 percent approved of him — but he would undoubtedly have a challenging time winning a GOP primary, having voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in February.”

Skelley continues, “Granted, if Manchin were part of a 51-member Republican caucus, he would wield a similar amount of veto power. But outside of that, it’s unlikely he would be as influential as he is right now. He’d likely lose his post as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a politically advantageous position for a senator from a state deeply invested in the coal industry. And he’d also be unlikely to influence the trajectory of GOP legislation in the way he does as a longstanding member of the Democratic caucus….It’s possible Manchin could leave the Democratic Party while continuing to caucus with it and retain his chairmanship, but a public separation from his party would also strain relationships Manchin has spent years building. At home, for instance, Democratic activists might choose to work against Manchin by backing a more liberal challenger despite the difficulty such a candidate would have in winning. Meanwhile, in Washington, a switch could damage Manchin’s trustworthiness with his Senate colleagues and hinder future cooperation with them…..All this sounds like a much greater headache than using his current position to get more of what he wants. Moreover, when push comes to shove, leaving the party you’ve belonged to for years is simply very hard to do. Manchin has said that his stances on taxes and health care would make it difficult for him to join the GOP, and he’s pushed back on the idea of leaving the Democratic Party many times over the past few years….Long story short, Manchin could switch parties, but it’s unlikely that he will. And in the end, the main result of the party-switching storyline is yet another news clip of Manchin distancing himself from his party, which demonstrates his independence to voters in deep-red West Virginia.” In other words, at this political moment Manchin has a lot more leverage as a Democrat than he wold have as a Republican.

So, what does Sen. Manchin really want? In his article, “Manchin’s offer to Biden included universal pre-kindergarten and Obamacare expansion, but no child tax credit,” Phil Mattingly reports at CNN Politics that “Sen. Joe Manchin, just days before he called off negotiations with President Joe Biden, proposed a version of the Build Back Better plan centered on universal pre-kindergarten program, funded for a full 10 years, as well as an expansion of the Affordable Care Act and hundreds of billions of dollars to address climate change, a person with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed to CNN….The proposal, which was viewed as a counter-offer in long-running negotiations on Biden’s proposal, did not include an extension of the expanded child tax credit, a central priority for Biden and Democrats. CNN reported last week Manchin had proposed leaving the tax credit, which Biden’s proposal extended for an additional year, out of a final deal due to concerns over overall cost and structure….CNN has reported that the West Virginia Democrat presented the White House with a roughly $1.8 trillion proposal during discussions last week. In addition to universal pre-K and the Obamacare subsidies, the proposal also included several hundred billion for climate change mitigation efforts, though the climate policy itself was scaled back from the House-passed version,, the person said.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “For both reasons, President Biden’s speech Tuesday on the fight against the coronavirus’s omicron variant was one of the most useful he has given for some time. It got both substantive and political work done….He explained how he is trying to get on top of the new wave of infections that threatens to steal Christmas. He reassured Americans that we could get through this bad patch without reimposing lockdowns, including school closings. And he was unusually direct about the political forces making the pandemic worse….For months, Washington news has been dominated by the frustrating legislative struggle for the president’s Build Back Better program. The effort hit a wall on Sunday with the savage — though not necessarily fatal — blow delivered by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). With Tuesday’s address, Biden reminded the country he had not forgotten his most urgent task and sought to salvage his standing as a virus-slayer….In June, a Washington Post/ABC News survey found 62 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the pandemic while only 31 percent disapproved. By early November, his rating on the health emergency had plummeted: 47 percent approved, 49 percent disapproved. A CNBC survey this month found a similar deficit….But an address chock-full of new actions taken to address omicron’s challenge — expanding coronavirus testing sites, distributing a half-billion free at-home tests, deploying more federal health resources to shore up strained hospitals, new “pop-up” vaccination facilities — tells the tired and the frustrated that, at the least, Biden is on the case….it’s becoming ever clearer that a precondition for Biden’s success — in general, and on social, climate and voting rights legislation, in particular — will be a restoration of his image as a low-drama chief executive who can conquer the pandemic and allow Americans to enjoy life free of fears driven by a mysterious disease….As he reaches out to whatever minority of Trump supporters are willing to listen, Biden might discover that taking an even more aggressive stance on the virus, including booster mandates and vaccine passports, is the best politics.”


Political Strategy Notes

Among Amy Walter’s “Lessons on Latino Voters” at The Cook Political Report: “So, why have Democrats been bleeding support from Latino voters? Some, like [Ruy] Teixeira, argue that “Democrats have seriously erred by lumping Hispanics in with ‘people of color’ and assuming they embraced the activism around racial issues that dominated so much of the political scene in 2020, particularly in the summer.” Others think high-profile political figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have served to brand the Democrats as the party of “socialism.” Others argue that Trump was better trusted on the economy, especially among Latino men. Groups like The Third Way point to the education gap, similar to that among white voters….Ultimately, Equis concludes, “Latinos do not fit neatly into this country’s typical frameworks for race or partisanship.” As such, there’s no easy answer for why Latinos have become less consistent Democratic supporters.” Given the demographic breakdowns within the “Latino” community, could the term “Latino” now be nearly as politically-useless as “people of color”? Could the Democrats’ failure to win support from self-employed and small business entrepreneurs be part of the problem?

From “Americans Like What’s In The Build Back Better Act. They’re Lukewarm On The Bill Itself” by Mackenzie Wilkes and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight:”There are certain parts of the bill that are very appealing to Americans, though — namely, expanded health care access. In fact, when Morning Consult/Politico asked respondents to select the five most important provisions in the bill, four of the five top issues were health care-related.1For instance, the House version of the bill adds $150 billion over 10 years in funding for Medicaid home care for seniors and people with disabilities — the largest increase in funding for this program since its creation. According to Morning Consult/Politico, more registered voters said this funding was an important component of the bill than any other — and a whopping 76 percent of registered voters supported it….The second biggest priority in the bill per Morning Consult was allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, which 71 percent of registered voters supported. In addition, 65 percent supported more funding for affordable housing, and 75 percent supported the expansion of Medicaid to cover hearing services.” Without a healthy working majority, are  ‘big package’ reforms just fat, slow-moving targets that no longer make strategic sense for Democrats? Would it serve the Democratic ‘brand’ better to break omnibus bills down and pass the popular elements as separate bills, and rack up a string of smaller victories?

At CNN Politics, Simone Pathe identifies “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022.” They are located in the following states: AZ; FL; GA; MO; NH; NC; NV; OH; PA; and WI. Democrats hold four of the seats at present, Republicans have six. Four of the Republican-held seats are being vacated by retirements. It would be hard to single out a “marquee” race because the Senate is so evenly divided that all the races are important. Pathe provides updates on the senate races in each of the ten states, and it appears that a net pick-up of one or two senate seats for Dems is at least possible, even amid all of the gloom and doom scenarios being bandied about. Democrats have some strong challengers contending for the GOP-held seats, and Trump is dividing Republicans in several states. Much depends on whether Democratic GOTV can overcome voter suppression legislation in these states.

In Amy Walter’s article above, she notes that “socialist”-bashing still has traction with Latino voters. It’s probably more the case with Cuban-American voters in Florida than with Mexican-American, or Puerto-Rican voters in other states. For an update on opinion data regarding the ‘socialist’ label, read “Deconstructing Americans’ Views of Socialism, Capitalism” by Frank Newport at gallup.com. As Newport writes, “My colleague Jeff Jones recently reviewed updated Gallup research on the American public’s reactio.ns to the words “socialism” and “capitalism.” The new data show little change in these attitudes compared with previous surveys, with 60% of Americans holding a favorable view of capitalism (38% unfavorable), and 38% holding a favorable image of socialism (59% unfavorable)….Gallup’s historical tracking of the American public’s views of socialism, which includes this year, is timely because the word has a continuing presence in American cultural and political discourse. In doing research for this and several previous articles on the concept of socialism, I find consistent instances in which the word “socialism” crops up in news stories and political dialogue, usually in the context of critical references to federal government spending programs.” Never mind that there is not a lot of agreement among voters, or even commentators, about what ‘socialism’ actually means; the term still has toxic branding power in some congressional districts, as we saw in south Florida in 2020. Timid denials didn’t work for Dems, who were caught by surprise in several campaigns. Democrats who are targeted by ‘socialist’ branding campaigns against them can tweak this bolder response.