washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In “A Liberalism That Builds Power,” David Dayne writes at The American Prospect: “Three major laws—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—aim to subsidize domestic manufacturing and the supports underlying it. In the first few months, the public outlays have been matched by a surge of private investment, faster than any analyst expected….Unlike with other economic interventions, the Biden administration has strived to hit multiple policy goals in implementing these laws. Grants from the Department of Energy to support battery minerals projects require a community benefits plan, with labor and stakeholder engagement, diversity goals, and support for marginalized groups. Department of Commerce subsidies for domestic semiconductor facilities under the CHIPS Act had applicants lay out plans for access to child care. And Biden’s team is wielding other tools, like incentive bonuses, Buy and Build America mandates, prevailing-wage requirements, and even profit-sharing schemes, to make sure this industrial revolution benefits workers and communities, not just executives and financiers….This has spurred a backlash from corners of the center-left punditocracy. Combining domestic manufacturing, decarbonization, union jobs, and economic justice muddles the picture, say opinion leaders (and Prospect alumni) Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias. They believe that initiating “a liberalism that builds” demands precisely the opposite approach: loosening cumbersome bureaucracy, diminishing public input, and tearing down any barrier to the national abundance we need. These traditionally libertarian preoccupations are finding purchase among self-described “supply-side progressives.”….For decades, America delivered economic development subsidies without strings attached. Wall Street–fueled private corporations were first in line for those gifts, and they hoarded them. Whatever cheap goods or McJobs we got out of that transaction meant little without the shared prosperity and sustainability that America needs….A better option involves the government actively supporting the very groups that have been left out of past economic transitions, building the necessary coalition for long-term transformation. Success is not guaranteed—democracy is difficult—but the laissez-faire approach guarantees failure. In order to actually remove the barriers that have hollowed out our industrial base, the answer is not a liberalism that builds, but a liberalism that builds power.”

Geoffrey Skelley explains why “No Labels Is Chasing A Fantasy” at FiveThirtyEight: “It’s too early to evaluate whether No Labels’s candidate could be a spoiler for the Democratic nominee, but the group’s belief that it could mount a victorious campaign rests on several misconceptions about contemporary politics. First and foremost, the share of the electorate made up by independent moderates isn’t large enough to win a presidential election. Secondly, despite distaste for Biden and Trump, each remains well-liked by his party, reducing the potential draw of a No Labels candidate. Meanwhile, the group’s aim of markedly increasing turnout over 2020’s record-high mark will require the difficult task of getting even more low-propensity voters to turn out. Lastly, finding a candidate who could maximize No Labels’s appeal won’t be easy because there’s nobody named “moderate independent” who embodies the varied preferences held by voters disenchanted by the idea of another Biden-Trump matchup….No Labels can point to polling that ostensibly suggests a third-party bid could be competitive in November 2024. For example, a June survey by Suffolk University/USA Today found that 23 percent of registered voters said they’d support a “third party candidate” over Biden (34 percent) or Trump (32 percent). Similarly, No Labels’s own polling in December found 20 percent would back a “moderate independent,” not far behind Trump (33 percent) or Biden (28 percent)….But these numbers form more of a very hypothetical ceiling than a solid foundation for a new campaign. Frankly, an individual who embodies most of the values held by the politically mixed group of voters who said they’d support a third party or moderate independent probably doesn’t exist. As CNN’s polling analyst Ariel Edwards-Levy recently put it, “the nebulous idea of an alternative to the actual candidates” isn’t going to be on the ballot next year….From a public relations standpoint, No Labels understandably needs to maintain a veneer of competitiveness as it seeks to raise money and gain support. It could also have a long-term goal of backing candidates for president and down-ballot races in years to come, too. But the overwhelming likelihood is that a Democrat or Republican will take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2025, and that a No Labels-backed candidacy will not have carried a single state in the 2024 election.”

From “Young voters are getting less likely to identify as Dems. It spells trouble for Biden” by Myah ward at Politico: “Joe Biden’s Gen Z whisperer has a warning for the president: Get going on addressing youth enthusiasm now, or it may be too late….John Della Volpe, one of the Biden 2020 campaign pollsters, has issued these admonitions in briefings with the president’s reelection team and in conversations with top White House aides….Having analyzed youth voter data for more than two decades, he told West Wing Playbook that voters under 30 today are less likely to identify as Democrats compared to spring 2019. More consider themselves independents, and fewer see politics as a “meaningful way to create change.”….The last three cycles saw historic levels of youth participation — and the cohort is as progressive as ever — but if these voters stay home in 2024 as a result of these shifts in attitudes, Della Volpe said, it could doom the incumbent president and Democrats….“I feel like it’s a responsibility to ring this alarm now, when there’s time to do something about it,” said Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. “These voters gotta buy into the values of the party and the candidates … and to appreciate the fact that politics can make a difference. You can’t do that in a full-week ad buy after Labor Day.” Meanwhile, Hannah Hartig, Andrews Daniller, Scott Keeter and Ted Van Green report at the Pew Research Center that, in the 2022 midterm elections “Voters under 30 continued to strongly support the Democratic Party, voting 68% to 31% for Democratic candidates. But this margin was somewhat narrower than in 2018. Republicans benefitted more from significant drop off in voter turnout among younger age groups between 2018 and 2022, since young voters tend to support Democrats. Voters under 30 accounted for 10% of the electorate in 2022 – similar to their share of all voters in 2018 (11%), but down from 2020 (14%).”

An update on the participation of women in the U.S. Congress as a result of the 2022 midterm elections from the  Center for American women and Politics; “As a result of the 2022 election, the number of women serving in the U.S. Congress marks a new high of 149 (106D, 42R, 1Ind), with women holding 27.9% of all seats; 124 (91D, 33R) women serve in the U.S. House, marking a new record in that chamber, while the 25 (15D, 9R, 1Ind) women serving in the U.S. Senate falls one short of the record. In addition, 4 (2D, 2R) women serve as non-voting delegates to the U.S. House….The number of women in the U.S. Congress increased by two (from 147 to 149) from Election Day 2022 to the January 2023, with net gains of one woman in both the U.S. House (from 123 to 124) and Senate (from 24 to 25). The number of Democratic congresswomen decreased by one overall (from 107 to 106) and in the Senate (from 16 to 15), and stayed the same in the House (91) from Election Day 2022 to the beginning of the 118th Congress (2023-2025).1 The number of Republican women increased by two overall (from 40 to 42) and by one in both the House (from 32 to 33) and Senate (from 8 to 9)….The small gains for Republican women in Congress as a result of the 2022 election have not yielded a significant increase in their representation within their caucus. As of January 3, 2023, women are 15.5% of the Republican members of the 118th Congress, nearly equal to their representation (15.2%) among congressional Republicans as of Election Day 2022. Likewise, Democratic women’s representation among Democratic members is almost equal between Election Day 2022 (39.9%) to the beginning of the 118th Congress (40.8%). Women continue to be significantly better represented among Democrats than Republicans in Congress, especially in the U.S. House.” Among the “multiple factors that likely contributed to this outcome”: “While the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal protections of abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in late June 2022 mobilized women voters and activists,it came after most candidate filing deadlines had passed. The continued efforts to both preserve and restrict abortion rights at the state and federal levels could have more notable influence in women’s candidacy calculations in future cycles.’

Political Strategy Notes

At floridapolitics.com, A. G. Gancarski reports that “DeSantis Under 30% Approval With Women,” and writes, “As the First Lady launches “Mamas for DeSantis,” new polling suggests the Governor’s got trouble with women nationally….A survey conducted by The Economist and YouGov shows fewer than 3 in 10 women nationally approve of Ron DeSantis, a sign he may face difficulties with the opposite sex if he should be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024….In a survey of 1,500 adult citizens, just 29% of women regard the Governor favorably. “Very favorable” respondents make up 10% of the sample, while “somewhat favorable” makes up another 19%….Meanwhile, 45% of women regard the Governor unfavorably, with a total of 37% of the sample regarding him in a “very unfavorable manner.”….he Governor has 35% approval against 43% disapproval overall, with 42% approval among men against 48% disapproval with that gender.” Further, “Just 27% of independent voters approve of DeSantis, against 49% disapproval. Among moderates, 29% approve of DeSantis, against 41% disapproval….DeSantis’ problems with female voters may drive a lot of this negativity; the crosstabs do not break it down to that degree. Consistent with that read, other polling shows the Governor struggling with women….A June Civiqs survey reveals that 63% of women disapprove of the Florida Governor, with 60% of female independent voters and 93% of Democratic women against him….A June poll by The Economist and YouGov, also illustrates DeSantis is dragging with women voters, and is stronger with men.” This is the Republican who is 2nd only to Trump among GOP presidential contenders. No matter who the GOP nominates, they are in trouble with women voters.

Steve Benen has a juicy contribution to the GOP’s ever-increasing annals of hypocrisy at MSNBC’s ‘MaddowBlog, where he writes  “In 2009 and 2010, Republicans who opposed the Democrats’ Recovery Act started showing up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, as if they deserved some credit for the economic package then-President Barack Obama used to help end the Great Recession. At one point, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put together a list of the House Republicans who tried to take credit for the investments, and the list included more than 70% of the House GOP conference….The phenomenon was so common, Democrats came up with a label for Republicans who condemned the Recovery Act, except when it helped their constituents: “Highway Hypocrites.”….to fully appreciate the scope of the GOP hypocrisy, look no further than the party’s approach to infrastructure investments that wouldn’t exist if Republicans had their way. AL.com had a reportyesterday, for example, with a succinct headline: “Tuberville praises $1.4 billion for broadband he voted against.”….The Alabaman has plenty of company. Some GOP members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation this week also celebrated broadband investments from the Biden administration, which they voted against. Republican Sen. John Cornyn yesterday touted federal funds to boost broadband expansion efforts in his home state of Texas, while neglecting to mention that those funds only exist thanks to legislation that he voted to kill…..Tuberville, for example, argued in his online missive yesterday, “Broadband is vital for the success of our rural communities and for our entire economy. [It’s] great to see Alabama receive crucial funds to boost ongoing broadband efforts.”….And therein lies the problem: If broadband is vital, and these funds are “crucial,” why did Tuberville vote against the investments?….I’ve lost count of how manycongressional Republicans have touted, celebrated, taken credit for, or some combination thereof infrastructure investments that they voted against — and in several instances, condemned as “socialism.”

“Among the additional conditions working to the advantage of Democrats are the increase in Democratic Party loyalty and ideological consistency, ” Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column. “the political mobilization of liberal constituencies by adverse Supreme Court rulings, an initial edge in the fight for an Electoral College majority and the increase in nonreligious voters along with a decline in churchgoing believers….These and other factors have prompted two Democratic strategists, Celinda Lake and Mike Lux, to declare, “All the elements are in place for a big Democratic victory in 2024.” In “Democrats Could Win a Trifecta in 2024,” a May 9 memo released to the public, the two even voiced optimism over the biggest hurdle facing Democrats, retaining control of the Senate in 2024, when as many as eight Democratic-held seats are competitive while the Republican seats are in solidly red states:

While these challenges are real, they can be overcome, and the problems are overstated. Remember that this same tough Senate map produced a net of five Democratic pickups in the 2000 election, which Gore narrowly lost to Bush; six Democratic pickups in 2006, allowing Democrats to retake the Senate; and two more in 2012. If we have a good election year overall, we have a very good chance at Democrats holding the Senate.

….Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, documents growing Democratic unity in two 2023 papers, “Both White and Nonwhite Democrats Are Moving Left” and “The Transformation of the American Electorate….As a result of these trends toward intraparty consensus, there has been a steady drop in the percentage of Democratic defections to the opposition, as the party’s voters have become less vulnerable to wedge-issue tactics, especially wedge issues closely tied to race….From 2012 to 2020, Abramowitz wrote in the “Transformation” paper, “there was a dramatic increase in liberalism among Democratic voters.” As a result of these shifts, he continued, “Democratic voters are now as consistent in their liberalism as Republican voters are in their conservatism.”….Most important, Abramowitz wrote, the

rise in ideological congruence among Democratic voters — and especially among white Democratic voters — has had important consequences for voting behavior. For many years, white Democrats have lagged behind nonwhite Democrats in loyalty to Democratic presidential candidates. In 2020, however, this gap almost disappeared, with white Democratic identifiers almost as loyal as nonwhite Democratic identifiers.

Edsall continues, “Three Supreme Court decisions handed down in the last week of June — rejecting the Biden administration’s program to forgive student loan debt, affirming the right of a web designer to refuse to construct wedding websites for same-sex couples and ruling unconstitutional the use of race by colleges in student admissions — are, in turn, quite likely to increase Democratic turnout more than Republican turnout on Election Day….Politically, one of the most effective tools for mobilizing voters is to emphasize lost rights and resources….This was the case after last June’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which eliminated the right to abortion and in the 2022 midterm elections mobilized millions of pro-abortion-rights voters. By that logic, the three decisions I mentioned should raise turnout among students, L.G.B.T.Q. people and African Americans, all largely Democratic constituencies….Kyle D. Kondik, the managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ballat the University of Virginia Center for Politics, published “Electoral College Ratings: Expect Another Highly Competitive Election” last week….“We are starting 260 electoral votes’ worth of states as at least leaning Democratic,” Kondik wrote, “and 235 as at least leaning Republican,” with “just 43 tossup electoral votes at the outset.”…In other words, if this prediction holds true until November 2024, the Democratic candidate would need 10 more Electoral College votes to win and the Republican nominee would need 35….The competitive states, Kondik continues, “are Arizona (11 votes), Georgia (16) and Wisconsin (10) — the three closest states in 2020 — along with Nevada (6), which has voted Democratic in each of the last four presidential elections but by closer margins each time.”….Among the key voters who, in all likelihood, will pick the next president — relatively well-educated suburbanites — Trump has become toxic. He is, at least in that sense, Biden’s best hope for winning a second term.”

New Poll Shows Low Levels of ‘Confidence’ in American Institutions

From Mike Allen, Erica Pandey and Jim VandeHei of Axios comes news in an e-blast of yet another disturbing Gallup Poll about levels of “confidence” in American institutions. The authors’ take is how good it is that 65 percent of poll respondents say they have confidence in “small business.” OK, that’s a pretty good thing, although it seems reasonable to wonder why it isn’t even higher, small biz being the “backbone” of American capitalism and all that. I guess that roughly a third of Americans have had some sour experiences with independent contractors etc.

Still, compared to other ‘institutions’ in the USA, small biz is doing pretty good. The same poll reports 43 percent having confidence in police; 32 percent for churches; a walloping 27 percent for the U.S. Supreme Court;  26 percent for both public schools and large tech companies; a miserly 14 percent in television news and a pathetic 8 percent in congress.

Few will be shocked by these poll figures. Cynicism abounds, some media and many pollsters reinforce it, and let’s face it, we do have a hell of a lot of actual corruption in America – so much so that flashes of integrity or generosity by public institutions are often reported as hot news.

The Axios team notes a “partisan divide in confidence. Republicans’ confidence in organized religion (49%) exceeds that of Democrats (25%). Democrats’ faith in organized labor (39%) tops that of Republicans (15%).” No shockers there. Perhaps we should be glad that at least there is no great partisan divide in confidence in small business, with just a 2 percent divide between Dems and Republicans. Hard up for positive news, the Axios team requests upbeat reports from readers about “your favorite local businesses.”

But I remain pretty disturbed by the 8 percent confidence in “congress.” Granted, it’s not exactly a hot flash. Declining faith in “congress” has been a staple of polls for a long time. What bothers me the most is that I can’t count the many times I’ve tried to correct even my fellow liberals, when they bad-mouth “congress” for inaction on America’s many problems. Highly-partisan Democrat that I am, it is nonetheless absolutely true that Democrats have done a hell of a lot better job of passing needed and even popular reforms in one house of congress than have Republicans, only to see them crushed by the GOP in the other house of congress again and again.

Yes, those Republicans were elected and their votes are valid. But Mitch McConnell outed their purely obstructionist strategy when he urged blanket opposition to all of President Obama’s proposals, regardless of their merit. Even before that, Newt Gingrich’s scorched earth partisanship put a brutal end to the normal comity between Democratic and Republican members of congress that once produced historic and urgently-needed reforms like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964-5. Trump and his twisted entourage piled on the polarization with gusto.

It’s hard to have an honest disagreement with George Lakoff’s argument that the public, even many Democrats, are routinely suckered into using preferred Republican terms in talking about the fate of needed reforms in our national and local legislatures. In large part, it is collateral damage of the triumph of ‘both sidesism,’ ‘whataboutism,’ or ‘false equivalence’ journalism. Whatever you want to call it, it distorts  public debate and makes political accountability increasingly difficult.

Despite the “liberal bias” that has been attributed to flagship press, like the New York Times and Washington Post, major media has too often been an eager partner with Republican propagandists in blaming “congress.” Republican wordsmith/strategist Frank Luntz has prospered for being openly candid about the necessity of using biased lingo to advance his party’s cause. The sad truth is that, with some exceptions, ‘the press’ has been an easy play for Republican propagandists.

Democrats, liberals, progressives, ‘the left,’ moderates and all others who don’t buy into the wingnut view of American politics, take note: It’s not “congress” that deserves condemnation for inaction; it’s Republicans who deserve it, even though many commentators are reluctant to say so.

Political Strategy Notes

Geoffrey Skelley explains why “Why Biden Probably Won’t Get A Serious Primary Challenger” at FiveThirty Eight: “….while Democrats remain concerned about Biden’s age, one ingredient is missing before there can be a significant primary challenge against him: unpopularity. The fact is, Democrats mostly approve of Biden’s performance as president. He has also made overtures to progressives, potentially stymieing a source of potential unrest — although the threat of former President Donald Trump’s return has helped maintain party unity, too. If we look back at incumbent presidents who encountered fierce opposition for renomination in the recent past, each faced substantial discontent over administration policies and/or ideological opposition from a frustrated party faction. Without such conditions, top-tier Democrats with White House ambitions are unlikely to risk upsetting leaders and donors in their party by launching a campaign against Biden. Time will tell whether Biden’s approval among Democrats will drop low enough to invite a serious primary challenge. But as of right now, Biden looks likely to avoid one….some of Biden’s hypothetically most compelling challengers, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, occupy roughly the same ideological zone as Biden, making it harder to differentiate themselves on issues besides age. (Whitmer is now national co-chair of Biden’s campaign.) Meanwhile, Biden has potentially avoided a notable challenge from his left: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Biden’s two highest-profile progressive opponents in 2020, have backed his reelection bid….Across polls of Biden’s approval rating conducted in June that included crosstab data for Democrats, an average of 77 percent of Democrats approved of Biden’s performance.2 This puts him below Trump’s approval among Republicans in two polls from the summer of 2019, but almost exactly in line with former President Barack Obama’s among Democrats in two polls from the summer of 2011.”

In “The Emergence of the Anti-MAGA Coalition: There’s a voting bloc that hates Donald Trump, despises MAGA, and could help Democrats win the House and hold the White House next year,” Michael Podhorzer shares some insights about Democratic prospects at The Washington Monthly, including: “In 2016…Suddenly, white non-college voters became the “it” constituency for political analysts, an obsession that continued into 2022. Democrats must win over these voters, pundits proclaimed, or they had no electoral future….Seven years later, that advice seems misguided.” Podhorzer, former political director of the AFL-CIO and founder of the Analyst Institute, the Research Collaborative and the Defend Democracy Project, notes further “Since 2016, Republicans have lost 23 of the 27 elections in the five swing states Democrats need to win the presidency—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Such an outcome was hardly preordained. When Trump took office, Republicans held four of the five governorships in those states and six of their ten U.S. Senate seats….But Republicans haven’t just failed to make gains in those states. Last year, they were clobbered. It was a midterm where the out-of-power party, a party running against such an unpopular president, lost ground for the first time….Ignore those who complain that anti-MAGA rhetoric is “divisive” and might turn off swing voters. In the 2022 midterms, the expected “red wave” was blunted by what I call a “Blue Undertow”—but only in the 15 states where a MAGA candidate was in a competitive, big-ticket race, where MAGA’s dangerous agenda would have gotten more attention. That’s one likely reason Democrats faced such stunning losses in California and New York; it simply didn’t occur to Democratic base voters there that their ballots could be the difference between a MAGA-majority U.S. House and a chamber that could continue passing Biden’s agenda….Key purple state voters reject MAGA when the choice is clear because of the new anti-MAGA majority. Winning that majority over does not rely on finding a perch in the political center. On the contrary, victory for Democrats with these voters relies on making the choice of democracy versus fascism explicit.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. gets philosophical and ruminates on the power of hope in Democratic politics, and writes, “hope is a demanding virtue, not a sunny disposition. It accepts reality, acknowledges obstacles and insists, as the bard of hope Barack Obama put it, “that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.”….This aspiration became so central to Obama’s political life that the word itself came to be seen as partisan. Campaigning in the 2010 midterm elections, Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee two years earlier, coined a memorable dismissal: “How’s that hopey changey thing working out for ya?”  Dionne, continues, noting “the celebrated work of Anne Case and Angus Deaton on “deaths of despair” among working-class Americans from suicide, alcohol-related diseases and drug overdoses. The loss of hope typically followed the loss of well-paying jobs and the collapse of communities….Deaths of despair, Case and Deaton found, were especially common among lower-income Whites. Black Americans, perhaps from their long experience overcoming discrimination and oppression, showed measurably higher rates of resiliency. But Graham notes that in recent years, suicide rates have been rising sharply among young Black Americans, and deaths from drug overdoses among Black men have shot up, too. Restoring hope is a moral and policy imperative across racial lines….It’s also an imperative in our politics, as Wake Forest University scholar Michael Lamb argues in “A Commonwealth of Hope,” a fascinating revisionist view of the political thought of St. Augustine. Contrary to a popular perception of Augustine as an otherworldly thinker who accents “darkness and pessimism,” Lamb sketches a persuasive portrait of a thinker who “encourages a realistic hope for a better form of community not only in heaven but on earth….Lamb highlights the high cost of despair in politics, which he argues “can license apathy or fatalism, encouraging citizens to withdraw from politics rather than stretch toward difficult political goods.” Dionne concludes, “Democracy cannot work if citizens are demoralized and demobilized by such despair. You don’t have to be a sucker for the hopey changey thing to see why we need a rendezvous with hope — in our individual lives and in our common life, too.”

Yesterday TDS cross-posted an article by David French, regarding the ‘joy’ of community that unites MAGA America. French makes a strong case that MAGA culture creates a potent sense of belonging that can translate into voter solidarity. In last year’s midterms we saw a kind of community emerge among Democrats, a community based on fear in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Politics suddenly got real for a large number of women voters and their families, rooted in the realization that Republicans really do want to meddle in and limit the most personal decisions women can make about their own reproductive choices. It did not end particularly well for Republicans. But that doesn’t not mean that the same kind community can work as well again for Democrats, regardless of the economic and other realities we will be facing in November, 2024. Sure it can help, especially because Republicans seem to be doubling down on passing anti-choice measures in state legislatures across the nation. But, as Dionne suggests in the article noted above, Democrats can also benefit from advocating a more appealing vision of hope. It’s the vision thing that Republicans are just not very good at. They have understandable difficulty in painting a hopeful picture of a future based on tax cuts for the already rich,  deregulation, banning books and dubious justifications for Trump’s trashing democracy. Not a lot of material there for a Reaganesque ‘morning in America’ rant. President Biden and Democrats, on the other hand, now have a track record of leadership for bipartisan accomplishments, including major initiatives in re-industrializing America, which lend credibility to their “hopey-changey” vision. But Dems must spell out the details of a credible economic vision for the future, which includes more good jobs, thriving communities, expanded educational opportunities for all, a cleaner environment, safer communities and a foreign policy we can be proud of – in stark contrast to everything the Republicans have been doing. President Biden has genuine bragging points on some of these goals already. He and Democrats must make sure voters know exactly what they have accomplished, and what they plan to do in the next four years – and put it all in inspiring detail.

Political Strategy Notes

Adam Edelman reports that “Democrats are already running on abortion rights in battleground states” at nbcnews.com: “In swing states with vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in 2024, the party is already hammering likely opponents over abortion rights — even though most of those Republicans haven’t yet decided if they’re running….The early attacks by Democrats on the issue signal that the party is ready to carry on with what, in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, has been a clear winner for the party. And even at this early stage of the cycle, it’s kept a spotlight on the struggles Republicans have endured in determining how to talk to voters about the divisive issue….The strategy could lend a hand to Senate Democrats who face a brutal map in 2024: They must defend 23 seats, compared with 10 for Republicans….The issue will be particularly hard for Republicans to run from in the perennial battleground of Wisconsin, where a deeply unpopularabortion ban will be working its way through through the state court system. The law — enacted in 1849 (only months after Wisconsin was admitted into the union) — bans abortions in almost all cases….“What we see in Wisconsin is also playing out nationally, which is that the GOP has built a machine around stoking up anger about Roe v. Wade but has never been able to do anything about it,” Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in an interview. “But now that the dog has caught the car, they have no message and no answers to tens of millions of Americans who don’t think politicians should be jumping between them and their doctor in the moments when they’re making their most intimate and personal decisions.”….polling released last week found that 66% of registered voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”….Democrats in the state haven’t wasted any time bringing the issue to the foreground. Incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin has already begun talking up her support for abortion rights. Last month, the Democratic National Committee, as part of a campaign across multiple battlegrounds, put up a huge billboard in Milwaukee and began running digital ads in the state, all focused on Democrats’ support for reproductive rights.”

What’s wrong with Mississippi? It its routinely dismissed in major media as a hopeless cause for Democrats. Yet the state has the highest proportion of African Americans of any state (37.6 percent in the 2020 Census), which leaves casual political observers scratching their heads. Really? Democrats can’t pick up a piddly 15-20 percent from Mississippi white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American voters to win statewide races? Yes, there is deeply-embedded suppression of Black votes. In one study, Mississippi ranks as the 4th hardest state in which to vote (behind TX, GA and MO). For example, “In Mississippi, just under 16% of voting age Black people are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction,” April Simpson reports at The Center for Public Integrity.  But isn’t it time for a full-court Democratic Party/legal press to address this issue? With less than 3 million people statewide, Mississippi has the same number of U.S. Senators (2) as California’s 39 million people. The Mississippi Democratic party has had its difficulties recently. But there is some buzz that Dems might be competitive in at least one statewide race this year. As Adam Ganucheau writes at Mississippi Today, “Every statewide office, legislative seat and district attorney positions is on the ballot in November. And at the top of the ticket, Democrat Brandon Presley [2nd cousin of Elvis] is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in a race many political observers have opined will be close.” There is no substitute for the political grunt work of organizing community by community, which would be a good investment for the national Democratic Party and for well-healed Democrats generally. Democrats wring their hands about the U.S. Supreme Court and how hard it is to reform it. But wouldn’t picking up a couple of U.S. Senate seats be a big help in securing any kind of Supreme Court reform?

“There’s more to this fight, though, than a localized political battle,” Pat Garafalo writes in “The Secret to the Democrats’ Future Lies in Western Pennsylvania” at The New Republic’s ‘Soapbox.’ “Philadelphia usually earns the lion’s share of the Keystone State’s national media and political pundit attention—the recent Philly mayoral primary was treated as a proxy battle for the left’s various factions, for example, with progressive favorite Helen Gym’s uninspiring finish treated as proof positive that that wing has overreached. But Pittsburgh and its environs are actually worth paying attention to if you want to understand a viable path for Democrats to build the sort of coalitions they need not just to maintain what they currently have, but to build toward a model that can persuade more than the traditional liberal base. The strategy Democrats employed there, which focuses on centering corporate power while not forgoing what makes Democrats, well, Democrats, has allowed them to challenge political machines, best incumbents and Beltway darlings alike, build new models for local political organizing, and maybe, just maybe, set a standard for other Democrats across the country.” Garafalo spotlights a number of interesting local political races in western PA, including “In the same vein, Representative Sara Innamorato—another Western Pennsylvania official who recently won the Democratic nomination to be Allegheny County Executive—is working to rein in so-called TRAPS, abusive employee debt agreements which force workers to repay often hefty training costs before leaving for a new job. Her legislative work has also focused on reining in corporate power, whether through repealing tax subsidies, reforming antitrust and merger law, or ensuring people can access the resources fix their own homes, instead of selling them off to developers. That theme carried through to her county-level race, where she proved a whole lot of naysayers wrong and shook off a late barrage of attack ads to win, convincingly.” Garafalo concludes, “Marrying local worker solidarity, an unchecked corporate villain, strong local organizing, and an affirmative policy agenda for dealing with it may not sound revelatory, but in a world of endless political noise, super-short news cycles, and an election season that never seems to come to a close, it’s working in Western Pennsylvania—and that might just be good enough for everywhere else too.”

Some notes on voter turnout in 2022, from Madison Fernandez, writing at Politico: “More than 203 million people were active registered voters in 2022. That’s around 85 percent of eligible voters in the country, and a slight uptick from the 2018 midterms. The majority of states reported having a higher active registration rate in 2022 compared to 2018, as well….But getting more people registered doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all voting. Turnout among all Americans eligible to vote dropped around 5 percentage points compared to 2018. Last year, more than 112 million ballots were cast and counted in the 2022 general election, representing a turnout of around 47 percent….California, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee had the largest drop offs, with double-digit dips in turnout between the 2018 and 2022 elections….Only nine states saw increased turnouts compared to 2018: Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Vermont. That’s a notable change from the 2018 report, when most states saw higher levels of turnout that year compared to the previous midterm election….In-person voting on Election Day rebounded after a pandemic-induced drop in 2020. But a majority of voters are still using other methods of voting, showing that there is significant staying power to the pandemic-era shift….Just under half of voters — 49 percent — cast their ballots on Election Day, up from around 30 percent in the 2020 election. Voting by mail was the second most popular option, with close to one-third of voters doing so. Around 20 percent voted early in-person….In-person voting on Election Day still didn’t hit 2018 rates, when 58 percent of voters cast their ballots that way. Votes by mail saw a 6 percentage point increase from 2018, and early in-person voting remained about the same.”

Political Strategy Notes

So, what will be the political fallout of the Supreme Court ruling that killed President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan? Monica Potts explores the possibilities at FiveThirtyEight and writes: “The ruling could have big implications for the 2024 election. Now, borrowers will have to start repaying student loans at the end of the summer without any relief. It’s possible that the people who had looked forward to student loan forgiveness will blame the court for the decision. But it’s also possible that the court’s decision will backfire on Biden. Family budgets, already squeezed by persistent inflation, are likely to be even more so when payments resume, and some voters may see it as a broken promise — one that many Democrats really wanted Biden to fulfill….There’s a big divide among Americans about whether student loan forgiveness is a good thing at all, with very strong opinions on either side of the aisle. Biden and others have argued that the size of student debt — more than $1.75 trillion held by roughly 45 million Americans — is holding back the economy, contributes to generational inequality by heavily burdening young people, and hurts the 20 percent of student borrowers who ultimately default anyway….During his 2020 campaign, Biden had promised student loan relief, and a majority (64 percent) of Americans think student loan debt is a very or somewhat serious problem, including 56 percent of Biden voters and 51 percent of Democrats who think it’s a very serious problem. Some form of student loan relief was an issue during the 2020 Democratic primary season, and Biden’s proposal was popular with the Democratic base. Black voters strongly supported it, by 79 percent, and so did Hispanic voters, at 54 percent; among all adults in those demographics, support was 77 and 52 percent, respectively. College graduates favored it by 65 to 35, according to a Marquette University Law School poll. So did those with advanced degrees, by 64 percent, and, perhaps surprisingly, those with less than a high school education by 80 to 20. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a USA Today/Ipsos survey from April found that 83 percent of student loan debt-holders viewed Biden’s plan favorably….

Potts continues, “Student loan forgiveness was also especially popular with young people. Majorities of adults under 45 thought the Department of Education should have the authority to forgive student loan debt: 59 percent of adults under 30 and 54 percent of adults aged 30 to 44, according to a survey from The Economist/YouGov taken in May. The poll from Marquette University Law School found the exact same percentages for registered voters in those age groups viewed Biden’s plan favorably, and so did all adults under 60….Will Biden voters be disappointed in his administration if he can’t find a way to move the plan forward? It’s possible they will blame the Supreme Court, which has seen its popularity take a beating after a series of decisions that push against majority public sentiment. Fifty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court, and only 28 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view the court favorably. There’s a good chance that Democratic voters will blame the Supreme Court more than Biden for striking down his plan….But the economic costs of the plan’s failure may weigh more on Biden as he seeks reelection. A Penn Wharton analysis has found that Biden’s plan, two-thirds of which would benefit low- and middle-income borrowers, could cost as much as $1 trillion. However, there’s also a cost to resuming student-loan payments, as the administration is now obligated to do, in the form of reduced economic activity, which could be a drag on an already shaky economy. A Civic Science poll from June 13 to 14 found that a majority, 58 percent, of student loan debt-holders were at least somewhat concerned about being able to make payments….What happens to the economy may matter more than the success or failure of any given Biden proposal, and voters are already inclined to disapprove of Biden’shandling of the economy. If student loan burdens make people feel even worseabout their finances, that could spell bad news for his reelection campaign.” There’s always the possibility that supporters and opponents of the student loan forgiveness plan will cancel each other out on Election Day, or that it will be old news as new headlines about different issues dominate the news 15 months from now.

Did President Biden blunder in saying “I think if we start the process of trying to expand the court, we’re going to politicize it, maybe forever in a way that is not healthy”? Biden made the comment in an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace before the Court nuked his student loan forgiveness initiative. No one in politics has more experience with the Supreme Court confirmation process than Biden, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But why toss away a potential bargaining chip?  Victor Reklaitis notes that “In October 2020, Biden promised to establish a bipartisan commission to study reforms for the federal judiciary, including expanding the Supreme Court. The commission issued a report in December 2021 but didn’t offer a recommendation on the issue of expanding the court.” Down the road Biden could have used the threat of court expansion to get some leverage for other kinds of Supreme Court reform, including ethics, term limits, transparency measures, confirmation procedure etc.  Court expansion is a moot issue until Democrats have a working majority of both houses of congress, which may not happen for a long time. But in such a closely divided congress it could also happen pretty fast. Biden’s comment may have pleased some moderate Democrats and a lot of Republicans, but progressives and liberals who believe that the Republicans have packed the Court already have good reason to complain. As Jordan Rubin notes at msnbc.com, “Nicolle pressed Biden on whether he’s worried the court might do too much harm given the majority is so young and so conservative. Biden agreed but he raised the concern about politicizing the court in a way that can’t be undone. Of course, that ship sailed long ago.” Liberals also  argue that it’s a defeatist precedent to let Mitch McConnell get away with his betrayal of the bipartisan agreement on process in the way he stiffed Merrick Garland and greased the skids for Gorsuch. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Republicans play hardball on Supreme Court nominations, while Democrats play patty-cake and whine about it. Of course, there is always the possibility that President Biden could change his mind, as Supreme Court rulings become increasingly destructive.

Amy Walter addresses a question of interest, “Can Bidenomics Turn Gloomy Views on the Economy Around?” at The Cook Political Report. Noting that “voter opinions of the economy have become less predictive of the election outcome,” Walter observes, “Back in 2012, the campaign of Republican nominee Mitt Romney argued that the country’s pessimism about the state of the economy and their distrust of Barack Obama’s handling of it would ultimately doom the incumbent. In the end, Obama won rather handily, thanks in large part to his campaign’s ability to recast the debate from one about the state of the economy into one about who is best qualified to understand the struggles of average Americans….In 2018, the party in the White House lost control of the House, despite a robust economy. Why? Many voters who appreciated the job President Trump was doing on the economy were turned off by his polarizing style and behavior….In 2020, the pandemic-induced economic slow-down was a significant factor in Trump’s loss. But, just as important was the antipathy to Trump himself….By 2022, record inflation didn’t doom Democrats in the midterms. In fact, among the plurality of voters who rated the economy as “not so good,” 62% still voted for the incumbent party. Why? Voters’ concerns about the extremism exhibited by many of the Republican candidates proved to be more salient than their worries about the high rate of inflation….A recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 41% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing on the economy. Yet, in a head-to-head matchup against Trump, Biden is at 48%. In other words, many of those who disapprove of the job he’s doing on the economy are voting for him anyway….Others argue that traditional measurements of voter opinion on the economy are ineffective. “Asking people about the economy is no longer a reliable measure of the state of the economy,” one Democratic strategist told me. “I don’t even think consumer confidence works anymore. Only behavior works as an indicator.”….Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg makes this point as well, and argues that the party needs to do a better job telling the story of the economy’s success under Biden.”

Political Strategy Notes

President Biden might not seem like a revolutionary,’ E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column,  “but he is presiding over a fundamental change in the nation’s approach to economics. Not only is he proposing a major break from the “trickle-down” policies of Ronald Reagan, as Biden highlighted in a speech in Chicago on Wednesday. He is also departing from many orthodoxies that shaped the presidencies of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama….The shift also has to do with who Biden is, his long-standing alarm over the Democratic Party’s alienation from working- and middle-class voters and an unease with the Reagan-era economic consensus that hovered over Democratic administrations….As a political matter, Biden wants to show that his signature policies on technology, climate action and infrastructure are working. On Wednesday, he stressed they are producing well-paying jobs for those who have been on the short end of economic growth: Americans without college degrees and those living in places with “hollowed out” economies…. A recent Treasury Department report touted “a striking surge in construction spending for manufacturing facilities,” which has doubled since the end of 2021….Government is no longer shying away from pushing investment toward specific goals and industries. Spending on public works is back in fashion. New free-trade treaties are no longer at the heart of the nation’s international strategy. Challenging monopolies and providing support for unionization efforts are higher priorities…..Can Bidenomics become an international template for the center-left as Reaganomics was for the center-right in the 1980s?….But Biden is selling his program hard because he knows its first test will be political. The standing of Reaganomics was secured only after Reagan’s reelection. The same will be true of the word Biden first resisted and now holds high.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Monica Potts sheds some light on public opinion about ‘affirmative action’ in the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court ruling, which “just ended affirmative action in higher education as we know it.” Was Pitts explains, “A poll designed to capture public opinion on major Supreme Court decisions this term found that strong majorities of Americans agree that public (74 percent) and private (69 percent) colleges and universities should not be able to use race as a factor in college admissions. Questions that remind respondents of the goal of affirmative action — to increase the numbers of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented students on elite campuses — tend to generate more support. But people also don’t think minority groups should be given “special preferences.”….Individual programs have been struck down over the years, by voter referendum in Michigan in 2006….as we’ve written before, how Americans view affirmative action depends a lot on how they’re asked about it. By one measure, affirmative action is more popular among white Americans than it used to be: According to Gallup, only 44 percent of white Americans favored affirmative action (broadly speaking, not specific to college admissions), for members of racial minority groups in 2001. Twenty years later, 57 percent of white Americans in the Gallup survey said they favored it. Hispanic adults saw a slightly greater increase, from 64 to 79 percent. Yet for Black Americans, the number began at 69 percent, increased over the years, and then settled back at 69 percent in 2021….But a Pew Research Center Survey conducted in the spring found that affirmative action is not popular today, particularly among white respondents, people without college degrees and Republicans. Overall, half of Americans disapproved of colleges and universities using race and ethnicity as factors to increase racial and ethnic diversity, while one-third approved. (The remaining 16 percent said they were not sure.) But three-quarters (74 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents disapproved, while a little over half (54 percent) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approved. Almost half of Black respondents supported it, the highest of any racial or ethnic group. College graduates are virtually evenly split on whether they approve or disapprove, while those without college degrees disapprove by a nearly two-to-one ratio.”

Potts continues, “Two recent polls found that majorities of Americans want affirmative action programs to continue. But one of those polls, conducted by YouGov/CBS, also asked whether respondents thought race should be considered as part of college admissions, and got a resoundingly different answer: only 30 percent said yes, and 70 percent said no….Some people may oppose affirmative action because they prefer a color-blind reading of the constitution, and think any consideration of race makes the process inherently problematic. A New Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground poll, fielded in February and March 2023, found that majorities of Americans prefer institutions to equally distribute resources to all communities rather than make additional investments in Black, Latino, Asian and Native American communities to close gaps. Sixty-three percent of respondents said racism makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed in the U.S., but more Americans said individuals should play a role in overcoming racism than said institutions like the government and schools should. The study found that Americans are split on whether efforts to combat racism would affect white people, with 44 percent saying those efforts make life more difficult and 45 percent saying they do not, with the remainder saying they did not know….Some Americans also don’t believe that systemic racism is a problem in American life. In another Pew survey from 2021, 77 percent of Republicans thought that little or nothing needed to be done to ensure equal rights for all Americans. Other surveys have found Republicans skeptical of systemic racism, which suggests some do not believe the justification for affirmative action is a problem in need of addressing. Some Americans also believe affirmative action programs are harmful to white people….But there are also a sizable number of Americans who don’t hold firm views on affirmative action, as evidenced by the policy’s struggles at the ballot. A 2020 referendum that would have restored race-conscious affirmative action in public universities in California, one of the most liberal and diverse states in the nation, failed when 57 percent of statewide voters opposed it. According to a New York Times analysis, the vote passed 51 to 49 in Los Angeles County, among the state’s more Democratic areas, suggesting that it’s not a voting issue for many voters and that support is slim.”

In “Electoral College Ratings: Expect Another Highly Competitive Election: Small edge to Democrats but neither side over 270 to start” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes “Democrats start closer to the magic number of 270 electoral votes in our initial Electoral College ratings than Republicans. But with few truly competitive states and a relatively high floor for both parties, our best guess is yet another close and competitive presidential election next year….We are starting 260 electoral votes worth of states as at least leaning Democratic, and 235 as at least leaning Republican. The four Toss-ups are Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin — the three closest states in 2020 — along with Nevada, which has voted Democratic in each of the last four presidential elections but by closer margins each time (it is one of the few states where Joe Biden did worse than Hillary Clinton, albeit by less than a tenth of a percentage point). That is just 43 Toss-up electoral votes at the outset. Remember that because of a likely GOP advantage in the way an Electoral College tie would be broken in the U.S. House, a 269-269 tie or another scenario where no candidate won 270 electoral votes would very likely lead to a Republican president. So Democrats must get to 270 electoral votes while 269 would likely suffice for Republicans, and there are plausible tie scenarios in the Electoral College….We have previously noted that only seven states were decided by less than three points in 2020: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This represents the real battlefield: Particularly if the race is a Biden vs. Trump redux, we would be surprised if any other state flipped from 2020 outside of this group….Even then, we’re not even sure that all of these seven states are truly in doubt. After all, we’re starting three of the seven in the Leans category (Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania)….This all underscores the reality that despite the nation being locked in a highly competitive era of presidential elections, the lion’s share of the individual states are not competitive at all.”

Teixeira: Why Dems Should Rely on Persuasion, Not Youth Vote

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Nothing makes the Democratic heart beat faster than a sense that the demographic wind is at their back. They love the idea that they can safely disregard all that messy persuasion stuff to focus on rising demographics and mobilize, mobilize, mobilize.

The current demographic darling is the youth vote, which did indeed perform well for the Democrats in 2022. But much commentary has gone beyond that simple, true observation to portray the youth vote as a tsunami about to overwhelm the Republican Party. To understand why that’s an over-reading of the evidence and what a more balanced perspective on the youth vote should be, here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Age and generation are two different things. Sometimes when commentators speak of the youth vote they seem to be speaking of an age group, typically 18-29. And sometimes they are speaking in generational terms, which are defined by birth years. This now typically includes both the Millennial generation (born 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born 1997-2012). So these “young” voters were 18-41 in 2022.

Since generational ages are not stable, this can lead to confusion. For example, in the Catalist data, the Millennial/Gen Z share of voters went up from 23 to 26 percent of voters between 2018 and 2022, while the vote share of 18-29 year olds went down from 12 to 10 percent and the 30-44 year old share went down from 21 to 20 percent. Huh? But this is easily explained by the simple fact that Millennials/Gen Z in 2018 covered voters ages 18-37, while in 2022 these generations covered ages 18-41. More ages covered = more voters so there’s no need to posit any particularly good turnout performance by these generations.

2. Turnout by age goes up and that affects generations a lot. This is another factor that leads to confusion. As generations age, their turnout (defined as percent of eligible voters that cast a ballot) goes up for many years simply because older voters vote at a much higher rate than younger voters. In fact, the age-turnout gradient is particularly sharp among voters in their twenties and thirties, which of course complicates interpretations of turnout performance among Millennials and Gen Z. This makes it harder—or should make it harder—to ascribe any turnout magic to these generations.

3. Presidential elections are different from congressional elections. In 2022, young (18-29) voters defied the prevailing winds and Democrats improved their marginamong these voters by 5 points relative to 2020. But congressional elections and presidential elections can be quite different, not least because a different, larger group of voters shows up for presidential elections. That affects the attitudinal complexion of all demographic groups, especially a volatile group like young voters.

Consider that Democrats carried the two party vote among 18-29 year olds by 36 points in 2018 only to have that margin decline by 12 points in 2020. And that was with Trump on the ballot. Right now, polls tend to show Democratic weakness among young voters moving into the 2024 cycle. In the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, Biden leads Trump by only 11 points among the 18-39 year old age group (which incidentally covers almost all of Millennials and Gen Z). And in the latest Quinnipiac poll, where Biden leads Trump overall, his lead among 18-34 year olds is a mere 5 points.

4. If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. This saying, attributed to the economist Herbert Stein, is apt. Democrats seem to expect all future generations to exhibit the same Democratic proclivities as the Millennials and Gen Z have. In fact, only about half of Gen Z was even of voting age in 2022 so we really don’t know how the other half will shape up. And succeeding generations—generations post-Z and post-post-Z—who knows? One political carbon copy of the Millennials after another cannot go on forever and, yes, it will stop.

The same can be said about the currently-existing Democratic proclivities of Millennials/Gen Z. They will be susceptible to decay, even if these generations retain a baseline lean toward the Democrats That’s exactly what Nate Cohn showed in a recent piece on generational cohorts. Millennial/Gen Z Democratic support cannot remain at the current high levels forever; it will stop.

5. Demographics are not destiny. This point cannot be repeated enough. The demographics is destiny thesis seems to attract Democrats like moths to a flame. We saw it in the bowdlerization of (ahem) The Emerging Democratic Majorityargument and we’re seeing it today in the enshrinement of generational change as the engine of certain Democratic dominance. Rising pro-Democratic generations = larger share of voters over time = Democratic dominance.

We’ve been here before with the rise of nonwhite voters. Here’s how the argument is being repurposed: if voter groups favorable to the Democrats (racial minorities, now younger generations) are growing while unfavorable groups (whites, now older generations) are declining, that’s good news for the Democrats. This is called a “mix effect”: a change in electoral margins attributable to the changing mix of voters.

These mix effects are what people typically have in mind when they think of the pro-Democratic effects of rising diversity (now generational succession). But mix effects, by definition, assume no shifts in voter preference: they are an all-else-equal concept. If voter preferences remain the same, then mix effects mean that the Democrats will come out ahead. That is a mathematical fact.

But voter preferences do not generally remain the same (see #4). We have seen this in the case of rising nonwhite voter share, as white working-class voters moved toward the Republicans and, more recently, nonwhite voters themselves have become more Republican. This has cancelled out much of the presumed benefit for the Democrats from the changing racial mix of voters.

To summarize how this applies to generations: while the mix effects of generational succession may indeed favor the Democrats, these effects are fairly modest in any given election and can easily be overwhelmed by shifts in voter preference against the Democrats among older generations. In addition, even among pro-Democratic generations (e.g., Millennials and Gen Z), the electoral benefit to the Democrats from their growth can be completely neutralized by shifts against the Democrats within these generations.

In short, there’s no free (demographic) lunch. The boring, tedious, difficult task of persuasion is still the key to building electoral majorities.

Context Is Key for Dems in Talking About Trump’s Legal Meltdown

At Flux, Jim Carroll, editor of The Hot Screen, provides some messaging tips for Democrats in contextualizing Trump’s indictment and legal problems:

….As Atlantic writer Anne Applebaum riposted in a tweet, “The horrible precedent isn’t that Trump was indicted. The horrible precedent is that we had a president who repeatedly broke the law.” Other media coverage tried to spin the GOP response as a vague “polarization/test of our democracy” moment — but as Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent observed, “Stop saying the indictment ‘tests our democracy.’ The actual ‘test’ we face is Trump’s apparent crimes and the unhinged GOP defense of him, which effectively posits that any/all law enforcement activity involving Trump is inherently illegitimate, no matter what the facts show.”

And though some sources implied America was at a crossroads for doing something that had never been done before (i.e., indicting a former president), they mostly never bothered to point out that plenty of other democracies have charged and convicted heads of state, from Japan and Israel to France and South Korea — facts no further away than in a recent primer by Flux’s own Matthew Sheffield on the topic.

As for the Democrats’ strategic decision to refrain from anything like either a full-throated counter-offensive against GOP disinformation or a solid defense of the American justice system, the passage of time has shown how perilous this conflict-averse approach truly is, as the Republican Party has only continued to blast its illiberal message of distrust in those who administer the law. As former Obama administration official Dan Pfeiffer has warned, “Democrats need to go on offense to push back on Trump’s messaging before he discredits the investigations and distracts the public.” In the absence of a coherent Democratic strategy, the odds increase by the day that Pfeiffer’s dark scenario will come to pass.

Carroll argues further that Democrats “provide a narrative that reminds Americans of the previous decisive points at which the Republican Party chose to increase its devotion to authoritarian means and ends. It seems that an accurate, dynamic portrayal of GOP devolution would be a more powerful message that simply saying “MAGA Republicans don’t share our values” (though the latter message certainly has its place). It’s critical that Democrats not only describe what the Republican Party is becoming, but convey the degree to which the party is still radicalizing, to borrow Zimmer’s phrasing. Not only would this allow the American public to better understand the nature of the current GOP, it would offer a powerful context for interpreting future GOP actions and rhetoric, given that the party only ever moves in one direction these days — ever more to the right.”

Carroll adds,

Likewise, Democrats would do well to play up the corruption and criminality inherent in the GOP’s defense of Trump, a point emphasized by Crooked Media’s Brian Beutler, who writes that, “Democrats should (finally, at long last) wield Trump’s corruption as a wedge—make his crimes a liability not just for him but for any GOP pretenders who defend him”:

What could be easier? Whatever the charging documents allege, we know more or less what Trump’s exposure is. He mounted a coup against the U.S. government, and when the coup failed, he stole a bunch of state secrets.

Democratic leaders, with the possible exception of Joe Biden himself, can choose to exploit that division. They can note that Trump’s defenders have sided against the country with someone who tried to destroy it. They can mount a political offensive based on the importance of protecting these prosecutions from Republican sabotage and force votes on measures that affirm DOJ independence.

Further, notes Carroll:

Like Zimmer, Beutler gets that the importance in the Trump indictment lies not so much in the crimes of Donald Trump as in the grand demonstration of GOP extremism and corruption it has provided. And as Jamelle Bouie highlights in a recent New York Times column, it’s not like this Republican corruption and criminality have come out of nowhere, as if Trump brought a blushingly innocent GOP to the dark side. Bouie suggests that Trump is in fact the culmination of long-running trends in the GOP:

Most things in life, and especially a basic respect for democracy and the rule of law, have to be cultivated. What is striking about the Republican Party is the extent to which it has, for decades now, cultivated the opposite — a highly instrumental view of our political system, in which rules and laws are legitimate only insofar as they allow for the acquisition and concentration of power in Republican hands.

[. . .] there is also the reality that Trump is the apotheosis of a propensity for lawlessness within the Republican Party. He is what the party and its most prominent figures have been building toward for nearly half a century. I think he knows it and I think they do too.

As with the points by Zimmer and Beutler I noted above, Bouie provides valuable context, in a way that breaks simplistic narratives that what is happening in American politics is unprecedented (Trump’s alleged lawbreaking) or incomprehensible (such as the idea that the GOP is going against its (undeserved) reputation as a “law and order” party). Again, it would behoove the Democratic Party to work more vigorously to remind the American public that GOP tendencies towards corruption are long-standing, and in the present day extend far beyond Donald Trump (just take a look at the steady flow of reports of Supreme Court corruption — a new one is out just this week! — to get a sense of how far and wide it goes within the party).

Carroll has more to say about the this context before he concludes “The post-indictment GOP firestorm is a good enough reason in its own right for the Democrats to step up the tempo — but we also need to bear in mind that what we’re seeing now, from both the GOP and the Democrats, is something of a test run in the event of far more existentially serious charges against Trump in connection with attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. I would hazard that what we’ve seen so far will rate as a tempest in a teacup compared to what the GOP will say and do should Donald Trump finally be indicted for his insurrectionism.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Democrats lean on abortion to flip the House — but there’s a catch: Democrats see abortion as a potent issue to attack the GOP House majority, but many of their target districts are in states where abortion rights are protected,” Bridget Bowman writes: “Democrats’ top targets, as they seek a net gain of five seats to flip the House, include 18 Republicans who represent districts President Joe Biden carried in 2020. Eleven of those Republicans hail from New York and California. Still, Democrats believe focusing on abortion helped change the 2022 election — and is a winning strategy for 2024….“This extremism across the country on reproductive freedoms will cost Republicans the House majority,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Suzan DelBene told NBC News in an interview.“This is an issue that is now real and visceral. It’s no longer theoretical,” said Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan, who won a special election in New York after the Supreme Court’s decision last year….Ryan also pointed out that abortion will be on the ballot in New York next year, as voters weigh a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. (Abortion is currently legal under regular state law in New York.) And Ryan noted that New Yorkers would be affected by GOP proposals to institute a federal ban or limit access to pills used in medication abortions…. It does appear that voters are paying attention to abortion policies in other states….In a new NBC News national poll, 57% of voters in the West and 55% in the Northeast, where abortion is largely legal, say that their own states have “struck the right balance” on abortion access. But similar shares of those voters — 58% in the Northeast and 59% in the West — say access to abortion across the country is “too difficult.”

Max Greenwood has an update on Florida Democratic plans to win back the state in the Miami Herald. As Greenwood writes, “Florida Democrats are leaning on their biggest adversary as they look to revamp their party ahead of 2024: Gov. Ron DeSantis….After two tough election cycles in a row — including a particularly bruising 2022 midterm year — the state party has begun an aggressive counteroffensive against DeSantis in an effort to claw its way back from the brink of political irrelevance, seeing the top-tier Republican presidential hopeful as the perfect foil to fuel their political resurgence….The animosity between Florida Democrats and the state’s powerful Republican governor isn’t new. What’s changed, party officials and operatives said, is that DeSantis’ nascent bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination has elevated their platform and allowed them to appeal to national Democrats — including donors — in a way that’s been lacking in recent years….So far, Democrats say, there’s at least some reason for optimism. Democrat Donna Deegan’s win in the Jacksonville mayoral race in May was held up by many in the party as an early sign that their losing streak could be coming to an end….And [Democratic Chair Nikki] Fried said that she’s gotten assurances from President Joe Biden and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison that national Democrats are still planning to contest Florida in 2024….The DNC recently began running a digital ad in key battleground states, including Florida, targeting several Republican presidential contenders on their abortion stances. That includes DeSantis, who signed a six-week ban on the procedure in April, though that law has yet to take effect….Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster who helped former President Barack Obama win Florida in 2008 and 2012, said that any successful effort by Democrats to put the state back into play is going to require more than just an aggressive counter-messaging campaign against DeSantis….“When there’s a massive, multi-million dollar investment into trying to win Florida that is sustained over time, that’s when I think we can say Florida is potentially back in play,” Amandi said.”

Statewide elections for Attorney General and Secretary of State have often been underreported in major media because they are frequently overshadowed by Senate and Governor races. But they are important because of the recent explosion of voters suppression legislation and “attorneys general can file lawsuits with far-reaching policy impact and because secretaries of state oversee the election process (in most states, anyway),” says Louis Jacobson in his article, “The 2023 and 2024 Attorney General and Secretary of State Races: Amidst several safe-state races with key primaries, competitive contests in North Carolina and Pennsylvania loom” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Jacobson writes further, “The current campaign cycle doesn’t promise quite as much drama as there was in 2022, when several key presidential battleground states played host to tight contests between Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump and more mainstream Democrats….For the current 2023-2024 cycle, we are starting our handicapping by assigning 18 of the 23 races to either the Safe Republican or the Safe Democratic category. Still, a number of these states will undergo wide-open primaries with different ideological flavors of candidates. And in the general election, we see three races as highly competitive: the attorney general and secretary of state races in North Carolina and the AG race in Pennsylvania….In the 2023-2024 election cycle, at least 6 of the 13 AG races and at least 4 of the 10 secretary of state races will be open seats, often because the incumbent is running for governor — a sign of how these lower-profile offices can serve as important political stepping stones….Meanwhile, the key matchups for the 2024 general election promise to be the AG and secretary of state races in North Carolina and the AG contest in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania’s secretary of state is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate rather than elected.) Both states will simultaneously be serving as presidential battlegrounds.” Read the article for Jacobson’s run-down on each of the races.

David Masciotra explains why “Latinos Are Not Flocking to the Far Right: The media are misreading the data and ignoring the majority of Latinos who continue to lean left” at the Washington Monthly: “It’s true that in 2016 and 2020, Trump did make striking gains with Latino voters after Mitt Romney’s terrible performance in 2012. According to the Pew Research Center, the hapless former Massachusetts governor garnered only 27 percent of the Latino vote. Trump posted 28 percent in 2016 than 38 percent in 2020. This is not insignificant. Democratic analysts and operatives would be committing malpractice if they didn’t pay careful attention when a key constituency’s support declines….But what those obsessing about the Latino “drift to the right” never mention is that Romney’s performance among Latinos was one of the worst in the past 40 years. Only Bob Dole in 1996 (21 percent) and George H. W. Bush in 1992 (25 percent) dipped lower, and independent Ross Perot took a piece of the Latino vote in both of those races, 14 and 6 percent, respectively….Moreover, presidential performance is not the only metric we should measure. The Latino vote for Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2020 was even stronger than for Biden. The Latino Policy and Politics Institute at UCLA took a magnifying glass to the Senate results in Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. It reached the following conclusion: “Latino voters supported the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate by wide margins across the five states analyzed. There is no evidence of a ‘drop-off’ in Democratic support for the U.S. Senate.”…Furthermore, the institute found that “Latino voters supported the Democratic Senate candidate over the Republican candidate by at least a 3-1 margin in Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia” and that the margin was 2-1 in New Mexico and Texas. …The numbers for the 2022 midterms were the same. Exit polls gauging support for House candidates revealed that one reason why the Republicans did not enjoy a “red wave” was due to a relatively high turnout from voters under the age of 30. Among Latinos under 30, 68 percent voted for Democratic candidates….When examining voting patterns, journalists could just as easily run lengthy expositions and record television segments on Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania. Seventy percent of them voted for Biden (only 24 percent voted for Trump), proving crucial to his thin margin of victory in the swing state. The story is similar in the battleground state of Arizona. As the Latino Policy and Politics Institute summarizes: “In Arizona, where Latinos represent 25.2% of all registered voters, the size and turnout of the Latino electorate helped Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.”