washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter argues “it’s more important to focus on the vote share each candidate is getting than it is to obsess about the margin that separates the two candidates.” It’s a good point for campaign-watchers. But Walter also shares some cogent insights about two marquee senate races in making her point: “I was reminded of how important it is to keep this “vote share vs. the margin” framing in mind as I watched political Twitter react to two recent polls taken in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania….The headline of the Georgia poll, conducted by Eastern Carolina University, was that GOP Gov. Kemp was leading Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams by 5-points but that the Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker was tied. Looking at the race through that framing, you would think that Warnock is getting a higher percentage of the vote than Abrams; after all, she’s losing, but he’s still in the game. However, Abrams and Warnock are getting similar support; Abrams was at 45 percent, and Warnock at 46 percent of the vote. In other words, the ‘margin’ isn’t telling us the full story….What is important (and impressive) is that both Democrats are outperforming President Joe Biden’s dismal job approval ratings by seven to eight points. However, to win in the fall, they need to win over even more of those Biden-disapprovers….the cross-tabs of the ECU poll show that Warnock is getting almost all of the voters (94 percent) who approve of Biden. Walker, however, is only getting 81 percent of those who disapprove of Biden. It’s easier to convince a voter who is unhappy with the president (and the current state of the country) to vote to change horses than it is to try to convince that voter that change is the bigger risk….To be sure, Walker has a lot of political baggage that Warnock and Democrats will use to paint the former UGA football star as ‘risky change.’ But, given 40-year high levels of inflation and increased talk of a “Bear Market” and a looming recession, staying the course is likely to look like the riskier choice for many voters.”

As regards the PA senate race, Walter writes, “Now take a look at Pennsylvania. The top-line takeaway from the USA Today/Suffolk poll: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is leading GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz, by 9 points. On its face, that is great news for Democrats. Like his Democratic colleagues in Georgia, Fetterman is ‘outperforming’ President Biden’s job approval rating by a significant margin (7 points). But, look under the hood and see the challenges ahead for Fetterman in turning his 46 percent vote share to 50 percent. For one, Fetterman has consolidated the Democratic vote (82 percent of Democrats are supporting the Lt. Gov). In other words, he already has support from the people inclined to support him in the first place. But Oz, who squeaked through a contentious primary, is getting just 76 percent of the GOP vote. How does Oz unify the base to support him? Well, he makes the race a referendum on Biden. Or, more specifically, makes it about being a check on Biden. When asked if they wanted their vote to “support the direction President Biden is leading the country” or to “change the direction President Biden is leading the nation,” 50 percent of respondents — including 87 percent of Republicans — chose “change.” Independent voters are also more open to the “change” message; 49 percent of independents picked change to just 14 percent who said they wanted to stay the course….Fetterman, unlike Warnock, doesn’t have the baggage of incumbency. That, plus the fact that the 6-foot-8 guy with tattoos and a goatee and doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter politician, gives him credibility to run as an ‘outsider.’ A recent Fetterman TV ad called the Lt. Governor someone who has “looked different and been different his entire life..Now, the big guy is running for Senate to take on Washington.” And, like Walker, Dr. Oz is a first-time candidate whom Democrats can label as a risky choice. But, Fetterman’s ability to win will depend on convincing enough voters who want to see “a change in direction from the way Biden is leading the country” that Fetterman’s independence is more than just cosmetic. Republicans, of course, are working hard to tie Fetterman to the national Democratic brand. A recent attack ad by the NRSC charges that “Fetterman admits he will always vote with Democrats. In this economy, that’s the last thing we need.”

Luck is often a significant factor in election years, and it can be argued that Democrats have not gotten many breaks in 2022, particularly in light of the fallout from Covid. But Democrats have gotten one major break, in the form of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bad judgement. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains in his Washington Post column, “In a perverse way, the country owes a debt to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He made this refreshing presentation possible. In an astonishingly foolish decision, McCarthy withdrew all his appointees to the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected two of his five nominees. She refused to seat Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) because they actively spread disinformation about 2020 — and because Jordan was closely involved in Trump’s efforts to challenge the election….In defending Pelosi’s decision at the time, Rep Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) turned out to be prophetic. “The speaker is making clear we’re going to have a serious comprehensive investigation,” Raskin said. “This will not be just another run-of-the-mill, partisan food fight.” It wasn’t, thanks to the exclusion of Trump’s bomb-throwing apologists….It’s often forgotten that Pelosi approved McCarthy’s other GOP picks: Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas. None of them could be characterized as liberals, and Nehls had joined Banks and Jordan in objecting to the certification of the 2020 election….McCarthy thought that by walking away entirely, he would be able to discredit the work of the committee as “partisan.”….Bad call. With none of his allies there to throw sand into the gears, the committee — which still included two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — was able to organize a seamless presentation. Cheney has played a star role, and mostly Republican witnesses are telling the story….a normal congressional hearing, with full participation from members picked by the pro-Trump House GOP leaders, could never be as informative, deliberate or free from distractions as the Jan. 6 presentation has been.” If Republicans do win a House majority in November, Dems could do worse than having McCathy calling the shots for his party’s House strategy.

McCarthy’s blundering notwithstanding, Nathan J. Robinson makes a case at Current Affairs that too much focus on January 6th 2021 right now is a mistake: “I really struggle to find words to describe how stupid and suicidal this strategy is. Republicans are about to overturn abortion rights, with the Supreme Court getting rid of a fundamental constitutional protection. We have just seen children massacred by the score because Republicans take the despicable position that massacres are an acceptable price to pay for the right of teenagers to own weapons of war. Gun violence and the stripping of abortion rights affect people directly. The public doesn’t want Roe v. Wade overturned and doesn’t want weapons of war on the street. Why not hold primetime hearings on gun violence? If you’re going to hire a TV executive and organize watch parties, why not try to show the country the human consequences of Republican policies, with testimony from victims’ families? But on abortion, for example, Congressional Democrats have declined to take the kind of aggressive stand necessary to meaningfully affect the issue. Politico reports that “state-level Democratic officials and abortion-rights advocates are discouraged by how little their allies in Congress and the White House have done since a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade became public.” Nancy Pelosi even (appallingly) helped an anti-abortion Democratic congressman beat his progressive challenger. (He is currently ahead by under 200 votes, meaning that Pelosi almost certainly made the difference.) When Democrats in Congress do nothing about the issues that matter to voters, why should voters turn out for them?….Democrats are going to lose in November not because it was inevitable, but because they have made it very clear that they care more about Jan. 6 than the bread-and-butter issues that Americans are practically begging the party to show they care about….If Democrats want to win, the solution is to take actions that help people, such as forgiving their student debt, giving them a child allowance, lowering rather than raising their Medicare costs, and keeping their children safe from assault weapons. Then you’ll have a “message” to run on, and you won’t have to hire TV executives to “refocus” voters on an issue they clearly don’t care about.”


Political Strategy Notes

From “A windfall profits tax idea that could actually work: Some administration officials have an idea that deserves more attention” by Matthew Yglesias at slowboring.com: “Democrats’ private polling, from what I’ve heard, tells a pretty clear and consistent story: the only thing voters really care about right now is inflation Republican ads and paid messages are all focused on inflation, and there is no “message” from the incumbent party that works very well in the face of prices that are objectively rising faster than incomes….In other words, it’s much more a problem of substance than of message….And yet, if you’re in politics, you do need to say things. And of the various messages that Democrats could deliver, the ones that resonate most with the public are the ones that emphasize the huge profit-taking opportunities that inflation is presenting for many companies. Unfortunately for Democrats, one consequence of education polarization is that all the people who care what fussy highbrow journalists think are now on their side, so when they say things about economics that aren’t true and then Catherine Rampell complains, those complaints hurt them. And in being an annoying complainer, she has in fact strengthened the hand of the more rigor-inclined members of the administration who are now able to argue that even well-testing messages could backfire via media effects….I am less fussy, and I am a believer in the idea that you can’t take the politics out of politics. The current inflation really has created profit windfalls for certain companies, and it is fine to feel and express annoyance about this. My big concern with greedflation is that it’s important for policymakers not to get high on their own supply. Oil companies are currently enjoying huge profit margins, but if they cut prices to reduce margins it would generate shortages, and Biden would be even worse off in a universe with gas lines and rationing. So what Bharat Ramamurti says here is a fine observation about the cosmic injustice of life, but I’m not sure it’s a basis for policy….Optimistically, moving to directly subsidize domestic production along with reversing prior efforts to squelch domestic output would lead to meaningful economic changes. It’s true that these changes would take time to filter through.” So the gesture might help a smidge for the midterm elections, but any policy effects would likely be more beneficial for the 2024 election.

In “3 In 10 Americans Named Political Polarization As A Top Issue Facing The Country,” Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong write at FiveThirtyEight: “Political division has been on the rise for years in the U.S. The gap between the two parties has only grown more sharply in Congress, while the share of Americans who interact with people from the other party has plummeted. Furthermore, many Americans only read news or get information from sources that align with their political beliefs, which exacerbates fundamental disagreements about the basic facts of many political problems….In other words, hatred — specifically, hatred of the other party — increasingly defines our politics….Polarization and extremism ranked third across a list of 20 issues that we asked about in the latest FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, which was conducted from May 26 to June 6. Using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, we interviewed the same 2,000 or so Americans from our previous survey, and of the 1,691 adults who responded, 28 percent named “political extremism or polarization” as one of the most important issues facing the country,1 trailing only “inflation or increasing costs” and “crime or gun violence,” the latter of which surged in the aftermath of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas….Almost 3 in 10 Americans said they were worried about extremism and polarization, which is essentially unchanged from our poll last month….most Americans (62 percent) still want the U.S. to actively reduce political polarization. Only 9 percent think that the U.S. should let things be.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter writes, “In many ways, Democrats have an easier path to driving up motivation among their base than Trump did in 2018. A roll-back of federal abortion rights; the events of January 6th; and Trump’s continued attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election are the kinds of things that should ensure solid Democratic turnout in November. But, thus far at least, we haven’t seen signs that these issues are either improving opinions of Biden, or increasing interest among Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. Democratic in-fighting between progressives like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and moderates over the best way forward (leaning into a more expansive progressive agenda versus keeping a focus on kitchen table issues like the rising cost of living), doesn’t help to inspire Democratic interest or support in the upcoming election, either….In a briefing with reporters this week, Guy Cecil, head of the Democratic SuperPAC, Priorities USA, admitted that “too many Democrats are tuned out of politics,” and that his organization was committing significant resources to “increase and quicken their outreach” to these voters. Other progressive organizations are doing the same….Many Democratic strategists also contend that they can use these same issues to motivate and turnout voters who aren’t necessarily Democrats, but who were roused to vote in 2018 and/or 2020 by their opposition to Trump….“There’s no question that persuadable voters are worried about economic security,” Cecil said. “But, we do see issues of January 6th as example of extremist ideology and ongoing extreme behavior [that are] useful in raising the stakes of the election.”…Democrats, he said, need to convince these voters that not only can things “get better with Democrats in power, but things can get worse with Republicans in charge.”…Democrats still have five months to “raise the stakes” in this election by drawing sharp contrasts with their GOP opponents around issues like abortion rights, and attacks on our democratic institutions. But, for many of the voters Democrats are trying to turnout, the rising cost of food, gas and housing are  “high stakes” impacting their day to day lives most acutely.”

Dems who are looking for a good coalition issue that can unite Black and rural voters should check out Nassem S. Miller’s report “National study highlights rural-urban and racial disparities in cancer survivorship” at The Journalists Resource. As Miller observes, “A May 2022 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examines the potential impact of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act on the two-year cancer survival among newly-diagnosed patients. It finds that Medicaid expansion is associated with improved cancer survival, particularly among Black patients and in rural areas. The association was also strong for lung, pancreas, liver and colorectal cancers, which can be detected by screening….The findings provide “further evidence for the importance of expanding Medicaid eligibility in all states, particularly considering the economic crisis and health-care disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write. They add that the study highlights the role of Medicaid expansion in reducing health disparities….Medicaid is the United States’ public health insurance program for people with low income. It covers one in five Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy research group….The authors of the JAMA Network Open study also call for more funding through National Cancer Institute grants for cancer control and management in rural areas. The number of funded grants solely focused on rural populations rather than rural-urban differences are also low, and policy reform that targets rural cancer control remains minimal, they add.”


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares some insights about the January 6th investigation: “Using less than two hours of prime-time television, the committee issued an urgent plea: Americans must understand the violence they saw on that winter day in 2021 as nothing less than what Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chair, called “an attempted coup.”….Attempted coups have authors, and with a steely, matter-of-fact eloquence worthy of history’s most able prosecutors, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair, indicted Donald Trump in every sense but the formal one….After watching Cheney pile fact upon fact and make connection after connection, the actual prosecutors in the Justice Department (and local prosecutors in Georgia) will have little choice but to issue the actual legal indictments that the treasonous conspiracy of Jan. 6 requires….The nation must be clear on this: Failing to achieve accountability for the Jan. 6 insurrection, in the courts and at the ballot boxes, will amount to issuing a license for the enemies of democracy to do this all over again….One man set this attempted putsch in motion. “President Trump,” Cheney declared, “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”….It was devastating to see former attorney general William Barr on video calling Trump’s assertions “bulls—,” and to learn that the former president’s own data mavens told him they were false. Trump’s daughter Ivanka was on video saying she believed Barr, not her father….If holding Trump accountable is “partisan,” that makes standing up for one of the most conservative Republican vice presidents in history “partisan,” too. And if the story being told is “partisan,” why are so many of the credible witnesses Republicans?”

If you were wondering which Republican U.S. Senators are supporting the bipartisan gun safety reforms, read “Here are the 10 Senate Republicans who are backing the bipartisan gun bill” by Olafimihan Oshin at The Hill. The list includes GOP senators who are either retiring or not running in 2022: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas); Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.); Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Richard Burr (R-N.C.); Mitt Romney (R-Utah); Bill Cassidy (R-La.); Susan Collins (R-Maine); Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). In short, none of them have anything to lose in 2022, except maybe some of their future NRA money. But it’s equally possible, if not more likely, that the NRA will reward those who are running in future years for their blockade of more substantial reforms. Brendan O’Brien of Reuters has a good summary of the ‘framework’ in “Factbox: What’s in and what’s out of the Senate’s gun-safety plan.” If you want to measure the Senate package against the much stronger House gun safety reform package, check out Kristin Wilson’s “House passes sweeping gun reform package though it’s unlikely to move in the Senate” at CNN Politics.

Over 40 Percent Of Americans Now Rate Gun Violence As A Top Issue,” according to Geoffrey Skelley and Hoilly Fuong, writing at FiveThirtyEight. They note, “There have already been 248 mass shootings this year,1 according to the Gun Violence Archive. At this point in 2021, there had been 258 mass shootings; in 2020, 173. Mass shootings are defined by the Gun Violence Archive as incidents in which at least four people — not including the shooter — are injured or killed, and they have been on the rise in recent years.It is often a select few mass shootings, though, that capture national headlines and spark outrage. Public opinion often shifts in favor of stricter gun laws after high-profile mass shootings, like the one on May 14 that killed 10 people in a racist attackin Buffalo, New York, and the one on May 24 that killed 19 children and two teachersat an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. …It should be no surprise, then, that the latest FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, which was conducted from May 26 to June 6 and went into the field two days after the shooting in Uvalde, found that concerns regarding gun violence had surged. Using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, we interviewed the same 2,000 or so Americans from our previous survey, and of the 1,691 adults who responded, 42 percent named “crime or gun violence” as one of the most important issues facing the country, up 19 percentage points from the first wave of the poll released in early May.2 This was by far the largest increase for any one issue we asked about, putting it behind only “inflation or increasing costs” as Americans’ top concern for the country….A solid majority of Democrats, 58 percent, named the issue as a top concern, up from 33 percent in early May, while 41 percent of independents said the same, up from 19 percent.3 Republicans also became more worried about crime and/or gun violence, but the uptick was much smaller, going from 19 percent in May to 29 percent now.”

Skelley and Fuong add, “Nothing changed quite as much as Americans’ concern around crime and/or gun violence in our poll, but there were a handful of other important changes regarding which issues Americans felt were most pressing for the country. Abortion, for instance, saw the second-largest change on net, likely thanks to increased media coverage of the issue in early May following a leaked draft Supreme Court opinionthat suggests the court might be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion in 1973. Nine percent of respondents in our survey named it as a top issue, up from just 4 percent a month ago. That said, abortion isn’t the issue that Americans in our poll are most worried about….Rather, that distinction still belongs to inflation. Americans are most worried about inflation, with even more respondents (56 percent) naming it as a concern than in our last survey (52 percent). This was in large part driven by Republicans, as 75 percent cited inflation as a major concern, up from 65 percent a month ago. Independents were also somewhat more likely to name it as a concern, 56 percent now versus 50 percent in May. Roughly 40 percent of Democrats named inflation as a concern, but this barely changed from our previous survey….Finally, political extremism and polarization remained a top issue overall, ranking third behind inflation and crime/gun violence after ranking second in our last survey. We dug more into this issue, too, and Americans’ attitudes around political extremism and polarization in this survey, so we’ll examine those results more in-depth in an article early next week. But as we’ve outlined here, there’s no question that the big, topline finding in our second FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll is that more Americans are concerned about crime and/or gun violence — at least for now.”


Political Strategy Notes

Politico’s media critic Jack Shafer shares some insights about the January 6th hearings that will begin tonight in his article, “The Democrats Plan a Full Media Blowout Over Jan. 6.” Shafer writes, “When you turn on your television Thursday night to watch the kick-off of the January 6 congressional hearings, you won’t get the usual over-lit, droning Capitol Hill proceedings to which you’ve become accustomed. Instead, the committee intends to mount a grand media event, to pinch a phrase from scholars Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, a publicity extravaganza orchestrated like a product launch or political campaign to engage, dazzle and obsess the minds of the masses….This is not to say the hearings will be without substance. To the contrary, everything we’ve been told so far about the committee’s findings indicates they will bring real proof of a conspiracy to subvert the election of Joe Biden and stage a coup to reinstall Donald Trump as president. Talk about the greatest political story ever told! But while ingesting the substance of the hearings, which promise to be nourishing, don’t overlook the platter on which it has been served. The committee has assigned James Goldston, former president of ABC News and veteran of Nightline, to present a slickly produced work of political entertainment, featuring live testimony as well as prerecorded segments, that will permanently cast the events of January 6 as an attempted coup. According to the New York Times, Goldston’s mandate is to fashion the hearing into six succinct episodes. Sort of like a bingeable Netflix series….Even without the show-making skills of someone of Goldston’s caliber, a congressional hearing like the January 6 committee’s would qualify for the rubric, and it would be as worthy of our attention as previously televised proceedings from Congress — Kefauver’s organized crime hearings, Army-McCarthy, Iran-Contra, Benghazi and the doomed-before-the-final-vote impeachments of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (twice)….NBC, ABC, CBS, and the cable news networks have joined forces with Goldston to preempt their scheduled programming for the January 6 show, according to Axios’ Mike Allen, who broke the story of Goldston’s involvement. The timing of the hearings, just as summer rerun season starts, and the committee’s decision to present them as a “show,” couldn’t be more perfect from the television industry’s viewpoint. TV adores content that costs them almost nothing to air and attracts large audiences, media scholar Michael Socolow tells me, pointing to Trump rallies from the 2016 campaign….Even Rupert Murdoch intends to broadcast them, albeit on his less-watched Fox Business Network channel….Nobody should doubt the inherent newsworthiness of the January 6 hearings. Attempted coups matter. Nobody should seek to invalidate the hearings as a sophisticated media pageant before they convene. But the January 6 hearings deserve our advance scrutiny for the new ground they appear to be breaking. ”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein asks, “Is This the End of the George Floyd Moment?: The Los Angeles and San Francisco election results add pressure on Democrats to balance criminal-justice reform with public safety.” Brownstein observes: “Since the massive nationwide protests that erupted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, the debate over crime and public safety in the Democratic Party has been dominated by urgent calls for reforming police departments and confronting entrenched racial inequities in the criminal-justice system. History might record yesterday’s elections in San Francisco and Los Angeles as the end of that moment….The decisive recall of progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, and the strong showing of the billionaire former Republican developer Rick Caruso against Democratic Representative Karen Bass in the Los Angeles mayoral primary, likely will pressure Democrats at all levels of government to rebalance their message on criminal justice going forward. The results in California—combined with the former police officer Eric Adams’s victory in the New York mayoral race last fall—send a signal to Democrats that, even in some of their most reliable strongholds, voters are demanding a shift toward policies to combat crime and restore public order….“What you are really seeing is the Democratic base in cities is asserting its fundamental moderate values of prioritizing safety,” says Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University….The rising public demand for safety doesn’t mean Democrats are about to abandon the cause of criminal-justice reform and return to the “tough on crime” ethos of the 1990s. But it might prompt more leaders in the party to pull back from policies that appear to prioritize reform over public safety—the perception that doomed Boudin and also has triggered an ongoing recall effortagainst Los Angeles County’s progressive district attorney, George Gascón.”

Brownstein continues, “It was a brief moment and an excessive swing,” Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank, says of the push to reduce incarceration and reimagine, or even defund, policing. After Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis police, Marshall says, “we had this progressive reaction, and a lot of utopian thinking crept in. But the problem was to view a strong response to crime and public disorder through the narrow lens of racial politics. That missed something big, which is that low-income and minority communities are on the front lines of crime—they are the No. 1 victims. They don’t want police beating up on their sons, but they also don’t want to be ignored.” Polls in Los Angeles have shown high levels of concern about crime and disorder across racial lines.” However, brown stein notes, “Yesterday’s results do not represent a decisive lurch toward the right for these cities. In Los Angeles, Caruso was about five percentage points ahead of Bass as of this morning. But Bass remained close enough that many local observers believe she will remain highly competitive in November’s runoff, when the electorate will be larger and likely younger and more racially diverse. Also yesterday, Alex Villanueva, the scandal-plagued L.A. County sheriff who has become a hero to conservatives by blaming crime on “woke” liberal policies, was forced into a runoff that he might struggle to win after attracting only about one-third of the vote in the early returns. And young leftist challengers denouncing the police department and city efforts to clear homeless encampments mounted strong primary races against several centrist Democrats on the L.A. City Council, including Gil Cedillo and Mitch O’Farrell, with the latter likely headed to a runoff….Still, the results in the marquee contests—the San Francisco D.A. recall and the L.A. mayoral race—show how much discontent over crime and homelessness has shaken the political landscape in what are ordinarily two of America’s most liberal cities….Even if Caruso falls short in November, it would be a mistake for Democrats to ignore the message of his strong performance, combined with Adams’s victory last year and the backlash against Boudin and Gascón. All are reminders that, as Marshall puts it, most Americans believe “public order is the primary responsibility of government.” After yesterday’s primary results, it’s clearer than ever that in order to confront the criminal-justice system’s undeniable racial inequities, reformers must convince voters that they are equally committed to confronting threats to public safety.”

What are the prospects for gun safety reforms at the state level? Nicole Narea reports that “Red states aren’t following Florida’s lead on gun control” at Vox, and writes: “Republicans typically respond to mass shootings by loosening gun laws, not tightening them. But after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state became a model for how Republicans could implement gun control….Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law, later signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, that raised the age to buy long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period between when a firearm is purchased and when the buyer can get access to that gun; allowed trained school staff to carry guns; and put $400 million toward mental health services and school security. It also created an extreme risk law, or “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms — a measure that has gotten increasing attention in the wake of the recent streak of mass shootings as a policy solution that could draw bipartisan support nationally and in other states….The Florida law is a guidepost for ongoing negotiations over gun policy in the US Senate, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX)….“The template for Florida is the right one,” Murphy told CNN on Sunday. “Sen. Scott, then-Gov. Scott, passed that law in Florida because it was the right thing to do, but also because Republicans saw it as good politics. We have to make the case for Republicans that right now this is good politics.”….Florida’s red flag law has been identified as a potential model for other red states. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem as though there is a critical mass of Republicans who are interested in enacting red flag laws in states that don’t already have them. That’s true even in Texas and Oklahoma, where Republican lawmakers haven’t budged in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings.” However, “Today, said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, “Republicans have momentum, and I think that there’s just not a lot of interest in spending political capital on a gun safety bill, despite the fact that there are lots of reasons for it.” Democratic candidates in some congressional and state legislative districts may be able to get leverage from red state parents, who are fed-up with Republican candidates who cower at the NRA’s every whim.


Political Strategy Notes

In ‘know your adversary’ news, Matthew Sheffield reports in his Flux article that, “For decades, Republican consultants spent big to promote leftist candidates, now they’ve started creating fake ones: Instead of trying to build a majority, the American right has decided to divide and conquer.” Sheffield documents the sleazy history of GOP fronting fake and unelectable Democratic candidates, and writes, “It’s not currently known how large the GOP effort to put forward sham candidates in 2020 was, but the evidence from Florida and other states suggests that it is becoming an increasingly common tactic. A fourth ringer “independent” candidate, Leroy Sanchez, who ran in Florida’s House District 42 has been connected with the Senate candidate ring through a Republican lobbyist named Macy Harper. Sanchez, who is the brother of a top Florida Republican donor, received just under 7,500 votes for his non-candidacy, far greater than the 1,160 margin that enabled the GOP candidate in the race to win.” It appears Republican operatives are particularly interested in fronting g pro-weed candidates to siphon votes away from Democrats. As Sheffield writes, “Minnesota Republicans also tried the fake candidate tactic in 2020, according to Adam Weeks, a man who ran on the Legal Marijuana Now Party line. Shortly before he died in the September before the election, Weeks left a voicemail for a friend which said that he had been recruited to siphon away votes from Angie Craig, the Democratic candidate in the state’s 2nd U.S. House district. Despite his death, Weeks remained on the ballot and received nearly 25,000 votes. That was not enough to block Craig, but it made the race significantly closer than it would have been….Weeks was far from the only person apparently recruited by Minnesota Republicans to run on a pro-weed candidacy. In May of last year, Kevin Ne Se Shores, a blind and disabled veteran who ran in 2020 as a candidate on the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party line in the state’s 7th U.S. House district, said that he had been recruited to run by Kip Christianson, an employee of the Republican National Committee at the time. Shores said that Christianson paid his $300 filing fee, in addition to helping him get into the pot party’s primary election.” But in light of Republicans’ increasing reliance on fake candidates and their long history of trying to manipulate Black Americans and other progressive voters, electoral reforms are necessary.”

However, Charlie Cook explains why “Even in a Great Year, Republicans’ Winnable Seats Are Limited,” and observes at The Cook Political Report that “after three consecutive cycles of very aggressive, even audacious gerrymandering by both parties, the number of competitive districts is much smaller, arguably reducing the volatility….Another reason is that Democrats lost a dozen House seats in 2020. Just as the ‘A’ seat on an airliner is always a window seat, a party cannot lose a seat they don’t have….In modern times, big wave elections have tended to come from a party well behind in seats. Republicans’ House gain of 54 seats in 1994 was from a starting point of just 174 seats; their 64-seat pickup in 2010 was from 178 seats. When Democrats gained 42 seats from Republicans in 2018, they started with just 194 seats. Allocating the currently vacant seats into the column they had come from (and will likely return), Democrats hold 222 seats and Republicans 213, well above the GOP levels going into 1994 and 2010 and Democrats in 2006….Most current estimates of likely GOP House gains range from as low as a dozen seats (seven more than necessary for the barest majority) to about three dozen. The current outlook from David Wasserman, The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter’s expert on the House, is a Republican gain of between 20 and 35 seats….Then again, caution may be in order in applying historic patterns from a period before partisan polarization became as extreme as it is today, with defections among partisans quite rare and pure independents exceedingly fickle and prone to buyer’s remorse.”

Li Zhou reports on the “House Democrats’ sweeping gun control package” at Vox, and notes: “Although lawmakers are currently on recess, the House Judiciary Committee returned Thursday for an urgent session focused on multiple bills intended to address the age limit for purchasing guns, the sale of large-capacity magazines, and firearm storage. During the markup, committee members approved the package, setting it up for a floor vote as soon as next week….This legislation — which will inevitably be blocked in the Senate — is an acknowledgment of the importance of this issue, and a way for Democrats to show voters that they are trying to take action in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma….As part of this week’s meeting, Democrats considered eight bills, which they’ve dubbed the Protect Our Kids Package. This legislation is in addition to votes the House will take on a federal red-flag law sponsored by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), which enables law enforcement to confiscate weapons from an individual who’s seen as a threat to themselves or others, as well as a markup it will conduct on an assault weapons ban. House Democrats also previously voted on two bills that would strengthen background checks for guns….The House actions are occurring in parallel with bipartisan talks in the Senate that are expected to result in a much narrower bill, if any at all. Earlier this week, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) met via Zoom to continue discussions about a possible deal that’s likely to center on “red flag laws” or background checks.” Many Democrats worry, based on previous experience, that the Republicans are running another ‘Lucy holding the football’ scam. But running out the clock may not work this time, since mass shootings are increasing alarmingly. No matter what happens with the senate negotiations, good on House Dems for at least setting a high standard.

In her article, “These Data Nerds Think They’ve Found the Climate Silver Bullet: Nonvoting Environmentalists: The Environmental Voter Project wants to turn infrequent voters who care about the environment into a force that can swing elections” at The New Republic, Lisa Featherstone writes, “Voters don’t care enough about climate, according to conventional wisdom. The best way to address climate change is for Democrats to win elections by talking about other subjects, consultants say. The problem with this political advice is that Democratic politicians, acting on the insight that voters don’t care, get into office and then don’t set a high priority on climate policy—because they want to be reelected….Put this way, it sounds like we have an almost unsolvable problem on our hands, one that could lead us to believe that representative democracy was incompatible with human survival. Conversations with liberals and progressives these days, especially those engaged in climate issues, are unfailingly gloomy. The right seems to be on a winning streak; relatedly, we’re all doomed. But what if there was a way out of this existential cul-de-sac?…The data nerds and activists behind the Environmental Voter Project, or EVP, think there is. They’ve got extensive research and proven results to support this crazy bit of optimism, and they’re using it to try to sway the midterms, a looming political event that most liberals are hailing with unqualified despair….The big surprise of EVP’s research is that far more nonvoters list climate as their top priority. And what that means, Stinnett says, is that turning nonvoting environmentalists (and “drop off” voters, those who have voted in presidential years but not otherwise) into voters could swing elections….Lots of environmentalists don’t need their minds changed. They need a behavioral change.” These people don’t need to be told to care about the environment. They need to be organized into voting….This year, EVP argues that “drop off” environmental voters alone could easily swing the midterms in Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire; the number of drop-off voters in each of those states far surpasses the margins of victory in the 2018 midterms and, in Pennsylvania, in the 2020 presidential race.” Read Featherstone’s article for more insights into how Dems can mine this vein.


Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns “If young voters sit out 2022, Democrats will be in a world of hurt” at The Washington Post: “President Biden and the Democrats would do well to spend a lot of time over the coming weeks talking with young Americans. It’s a matter of survival. If younger voters remain as turned off as they are now, Democrats will get clobbered in November.Generational differences don’t always play a major role in politics, but they do now. Democrats are unusually dependent on support among the young, and if youth turnout in 2022 regresses to levels closer to those in the 2014 midterms, a lot of Democratic incumbents will be looking for new jobs….The facts are plain. In five key swing states in 2020, Biden needed young voters to prevail. According to exit polls, Biden won voters under 30 years old by 31 points in Arizona, 27 points in Pennsylvania, 24 points in Michigan, 23 points in Wisconsin and 13 points in Georgia….According to Census Bureau figures, only 19.9 percent of voters 18- to 29-years old cast ballots in the 2014 midterms, which produced a GOP sweep. But, inspired in part by the anti-Trump movement, under-30 turnout soared to 35.6 percent in 2018, helping Democrats win control of the House. Turnout was also up substantially among 30- to-44-year-olds….[Democratic pollster Molly] Murphy said, “the glaring reality of what is at stake” if the Republicans win may prove to be the Democrats’ strongest card, especially if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. The “idea that Republicans are very extreme,” McElwee said, is widely held among the younger voters Democrats need to bring to the polls….No doubt some older Democratic officeholders will wax impatient with the impatience of the young. After all, Biden and his party have had to deal with a wall of Republican obstruction, the president has made a big dent in judicial appointments, and he has pursued broadly progressive regulatory policies….But with their party facing a potential catastrophe this fall, Democrats don’t have the luxury of lecturing their younger supporters on the need for patience. They will either turn them out, or they’ll lose.”

Speaking of young voters, Daniel Cox writes in his FiveThirtyeight article, “There’s A New Age Gap On Abortion Rights” that “A new report from the Pew Research Center found that support for abortion rights is considerably higher among young Americans. Roughly three-quarters of 18- to 29-year-olds say abortion should generally be legal, including 30 percent who say it should be legal in all cases. Meanwhile, Americans 65 and older expressed much more tepid support — only 54 percent said abortion should be legal without exception (14 percent) or with some exceptions (40 percent)….This might not sound all that surprising since younger adults often see issuesdifferently from older adults, but this age gap on attitudes about abortion contradicts past polling on this issue. According to the General Social Survey,1young Americans’ views on obtaining an abortion have not been appreciably different from the public’s overall for much of the past 40-plus years. That changed fairly recently, though. On the question of whether someone should be able to get an abortion for any reason, 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed in 2021, a 20-percentage-point increase from a decade earlier….In fact, over the past decade, one of the most confounding trends in public opinion has been why millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996)2 — who are less religious, more educated and more liberal than previous generations — are not stronger supporters of abortion rights. Polls have generally shown that millennialsexpress considerable ambivalence about abortion, views that do not distinguish them from the broader public.”

Cox continues, “Now, though, we’re left to solve another riddle: Why do Generation Z adults (born between 1997 and 2004) not share millennials’ more conservative perspectives on abortion? There are a few possible explanations worth considering…..Perhaps the simplest is that Gen Z adults, particularly women, are more liberal than previous generations when they were young adults — including millennials. While younger adults are typically more liberal than older ones, Gen Z women especially tend to be progressive. An analysis of Gallup surveys over the past decade conducted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, which I lead, found a critical shift in political identity among young women. In 2021, we found that 44 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as liberal, whereas only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as such a decade earlier. Among men in this age group, the share who identified as liberal was essentially unchanged during the same time period….a crucial difference between Gen Z and millennials on abortion rights may have to do with shifting perceptions of access. Millennials came of age at a time when abortion was perceived as generally available and subject to comparatively few restrictions. In a 2011 survey, a majority (55 percent) of millennials said it was not at all or not too difficult to get an abortion, a significantly higher share compared with other age groups’ responses. After a decade of state-level restrictions, though, and well-publicized efforts to reduce abortion access, views have changed significantly….Of course, research has long shown that younger Americans are generally less engaged in politics and spend less time talking about political issues than older Americans. But abortion may be an issue they care about more. According to results from Pew’s March survey, younger Americans spend as much time as Americans overall thinking about abortion, and for young women, the share is even higher. If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, it is not difficult to believe that the large majority of Gen Zers who support abortion rights will see such a move as an infringement on rights once afforded to them. And if the past few years have shown us anything, it is that anxiety is a powerful political motivator.”

From “The Outlook for the 2022 Senate Elections: A State-by-State Analysis: What a predictive model tells us about the last decade of results, as well as 2022” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Given the uncertainty of the overall results of the 2022 Senate elections, I decided to conduct a seat-by-seat analysis of all 174 Senate races since 2012 to see what factors have influenced the results of these contests. I then applied the findings from these earlier elections to the 35 contests taking place this year in order to predict their outcomes. The results of this seat-by-seat analysis were consistent with the national forecast from the generic ballot model. With neither party holding a clear advantage, control of the Senate will likely come down to a half dozen or so competitive contests in which the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates could be crucial….Based on the results of my analysis of Senate contests between 2012 and 2020 in Table 2, I calculated the model’s expected results of all 35 Senate contests taking place this year. The results are displayed in Table 5….Based on the accuracy of the predictions for elections between 2012 and 2020, we can have a high degree of confidence in the outcomes of races in which the predicted margin is greater than 10 points but less confidence if the predicted margin is less than 10 points.”


Political Strategy Notes

In their article, “Support For Gun Control Will Likely Rise After Uvalde. But History Suggests It Will Fade” at FiveThirty Eight, Geoffrey Skelley, Nathaniel Rakish and Elena Mejia write that “stricter gun laws have been Americans’ preference for most of the last 30 years. Back in 1990, when Gallup first asked this question, a whopping 78 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun-control laws. That number gradually fell to 43 percent by 2011, putting it in an approximate tie with the share of Americans who were satisfied with U.S. gun regulations. But the next year, in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, support for more gun-sales restrictions increased to 58 percent, and it has remained around that high ever since — with some temporary spikes in response to major shootings like Parkland….The trend in public opinion over the last decade offers both good and bad signs for supporters of gun control. On the one hand, Sandy Hook — which is sometimes considered a tipping point that normalized debating gun policy in response to mass shootings — appears to have had a lasting impact on American public opinion on guns. While pro-gun-control sentiment did fade in the months following Sandy Hook, it did not fall all the way back to its 2011 low — instead, the shooting seems to have fundamentally shifted the debate toward more Americans wanting stricter gun laws. On the other hand, though, support for gun control has markedly decreased since the 2019 spike associated with the shootings that summer in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to a point even lower than the pre-Parkland (2018), pre-Las Vegas (2017), pre-Orlando (2016) baseline. (Civiqs has also picked up on this trend.)…It’s possible that we’re about to see another large spike in support after what happened in Uvalde, but if history is any guide, it won’t last for long.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. tells it straight: “We don’t act because the Republican Party, with precious few dissenters, has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and because the U.S. Senate, with a filibuster rule that gives veto power to the minority, vastly overrepresents rural states….The upshot? Majority rule is foiled on such broadly popular measures as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And the Supreme Court, shaped in recent years by presidents who lost the popular vote, seems poised to make the task of legislating even harder….Tellingly, the data on gun laws and death rates overlap. The two states with the lowest rates of gun deaths, Hawaii and Massachusetts, are among those with the toughest gun measures. The two with the highest gun death rates, Mississippi and Louisiana, were ranked among those with the weakest firearms legislation….Those who now call themselves “originalists” and claim to be the true arbiters of what the Founders intended — on guns and everything else — willfully ignore the political brawls throughout our history over the meaning and spirit of the words put on paper in 1787….It is maddening and heartbreaking that our country is so deeply mired in the past that we are incapable of regulating weapons whose ferocity our Founders couldn’t have imagined. The fight for sane gun laws is, first, about the innocent lives extinguished by the failure of our politics. But it is also about moving, at last, into a more humane future.”

Voters Have Come To Accept, or Even Demand, the Unorthodox,” Charlie Cook explains at The Cook Political Report. V Cook adds, “Look no further than last week’s Democratic and Republican Senate primaries in Pennsylvania. Just six years ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat the significantly more progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders handily in the state’s Democratic presidential primary by a dozen percentage points, a margin of just over 200,000 votes. But that was then, and this is now. Last week, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Sanders endorser in that 2016 race, not only trounced the more centrist Rep. Conor Lamb by 32 points, a margin of over 400,000 votes, but carried every one of the Keystone State’s counties. As former CBS anchor Dan Rather said about another candidate years ago, Lamb was “beaten like a rented mule.”…A Marine Corps officer for four years and later an assistant U.S. attorney, Lamb could have been dreamed up by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s recruiting office. The 6’8” Fetterman, on the other hand, made baggy basketball pants and a hooded sweatshirt his calling card on the campaign trail….So, what is going on? Like many other things in life, politics has many moving parts and often no single explanation will suffice. On one level, voters have grown so tired of and cynical about politics that they seem attracted to highly unconventional candidates, while those with more traditional résumés and profiles are eschewed as just more of the same….Then there is the actual makeup of the parties. With the ideological sorting that began in the 1980s and 1990s, liberals or left-tilting Republicans have almost all died off or abandoned their party, as did right-tilting Democrats. More aggressive gerrymandering also pulled each party’s primary electorate to the extremes. Cable television, talk radio, ideological websites, and social media have all contributed to group polarization, so that like-minded people discussing an issue will become even more extreme in their thinking, preexisting positions reinforced and amplified….The end result is two parties that have moved so far away from the center that they can’t even see the middle, or imagine who might be there or how they may see things. Increasingly exotic ideas and arguments flourish, getting little if any pushback within the parties. Swing voters listen to their proposals with bewilderment, ending up deciding their vote based on which party they seem to be most mad at, at the moment.”

If you’ve been wondering if Beto O’Rourke got any traction as a result of his crashing Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s press conference, Darragh Roche shares some observations about “Beto O’Rourke’s Odds of Winning Texas Governor’s Race After Uvalde Shooting” at Newsweek. Roche explains, “in deep red Texas, Abbott still enjoys a major advantage and bookmakers told Newsweek that the incumbent governor’s odds were still better than his Democratic challenger’s….Betfair, which operates the world’s largest online betting market, gave Republicansodds of 1/7 to win the 2022 governor’s race, while Democrats‘ odds stood at 9/2 and the bookmaker was offering 33/1 odds on any other candidate.,,,Irish bookmakers Paddy Power gave O’Rourke odds of 4/1 to win the race and Abbott’s odds stood at 1/7 in what may be seen as a good sign for the governor who’s seeking a third term…..”We haven’t seen any major changes in the last week, given opinions in Texas along party lines are pretty fixed at this stage,” a Paddy Power spokesperson told Newsweek….Recent polling also appears to show a difficult path to victory for the Democrat. A poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler published on May 15 found that Abbott had 46 percent support and O’Rourke had 39 percent….It remains to be seen if the tragic shooting will have a major impact on the gubernatorial race but Abbott has faced criticism in the wake of the killings. The governor caused controversy by briefly attending a fundraiser on Tuesday after being informed of the shootings, and he decided to cancel an in-person appearance at a National Rifle Association (NRA) event in Houston on Friday amid criticism from O’Rourke and others….O’Rourke narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in a 2018 U.S. Senate election in Texas.” For more details about polls in the O’Rourke-Abott race, check out “Polling For Beto More Hopeful Than It Looks” at reformaustin.org. No data yet, but I have a hunch O’Rourke may have gotten a nice bump in contributions.


Political Strategy Notes

In “The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic that  “the stalemate over gun-control legislation since Bill Clinton’s first presidential term ultimately rests on a much deeper problem: the growing crisis of majority rule in American politics….Polls are clear that while Americans don’t believe gun control would solve all of the problems associated with gun violence, a commanding majority supports the central priorities of gun-control advocates, including universal background checks and an assault-weapons ban. Yet despite this overwhelming consensus, it’s highly unlikely that the massacre of at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, yesterday, or President Joe Biden’s emotional plea for action last night, will result in legislative action….That’s because gun control is one of many issues in which majority opinion in the nation runs into the brick wall of a Senate rule—the filibuster—that provides a veto over national policy to a minority of the states, most of them small, largely rural, preponderantly white, and dominated by Republicans.” Further, “The disproportionate influence of small states has come to shape the competition for national power in America. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party had done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828….According to calculations by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the political-reform program at New America, a center-left think tank, Senate Republicans have represented a majority of the U.S. population for only two years since 1980, if you assign half of each state’s population to each of its senators. But largely because of its commanding hold on smaller states, the GOP has controlled the Senate majority for 22 of those 42 years….The Pew polling found that significant majorities of Americans support background checks (81 percent), an assault-weapons ban (63 percent), and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines (64 percent); a majority also opposes concealed carry of weapons without a permit. Majorities of Republicans who don’t own guns shared those opinions, as did Democratic gun owners, by even more lopsided margins. Even most Republicans who do own guns said in the polling that they support background checks and oppose permitless concealed carry (which more red states, including Texas, are authorizing). Despite all of this, Republican elected officials, in their near-lockstep opposition to gun control, have bent to groups like the NRA in equating almost any restrictions as a sign of disrespect to the values of red America…..If there is any hope for congressional action on gun control in the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy—or another mass shooting in the future—it almost certainly will require reform or elimination of the filibuster. Otherwise, the basic rules of American politics will continue to allow Republicans to impose their priorities even when a clear majority of Americans disagree. The hard truth is that there’s no way to confront America’s accelerating epidemic of gun violence without first addressing its systemic erosion of majority rule.”

Monique Beals reports that a “Majority in new poll favors stricter gun control measures” at The Hill: “A majority of Americans say Congress should pass gun control legislation, according to a new poll taken before Tuesday’s deadly shooting in Texas that left 19 children at an elementary school dead along with two teachers. Overall, 59 percent of respondents said it was “very” or “somewhat” important that elected leaders in the U.S. pass stricter gun control laws….Nine percent had no opinion or did not know, according to the poll from Morning Consult and Politico….The poll found that 34 percent said restrictions on gun ownership should be a top priority for Congress, while 22 percent said it should be an important but lower priority….Twenty-three percent said Congress should not put new restrictions on gun ownership while 14 percent said it was not too important but still a priority. Seven percent had no opinion….Thirty-five percent said it was most important for the federal government to focus on passing stricter gun control laws “to prevent more mass shootings.”…While the poll took place before the Texas killings, there were several other high-profile shootings that took place before the survey was conducted — a sign of how common such violence has become in American life…..Background checks have effectively blocked 4 million gun sales “to people prohibited by law from having guns,” according to Everytown for Gun Safety….Twenty-two percent of Americans reported that they purchased their most recent gun without any background check, the group added….The survey included 2,005 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. It was conducted May 20-22.”

Dylan Matthews explains “How gun ownership became a powerful political identity” at Vox: “The way the responses to the gun massacres over the past week and a half played out was about something deeper: the development of gun ownership into a powerful political identity, one that shapes national politics, even presidential politics, in a profound way….Over the course of the past four decades, though, gun ownership has firmly sorted along party lines. In a 2017 paper, University of Kansas political scientists Mark Joslyn, Don Haider-Markel, Michael Baggs, and Andrew Bilbo found that the correlation between owning a gun and presidential vote choice increased markedly from 1972 to 2012….This grounding of gun owners’ conservative politics in a deep social identity helps make them a potent base of political support for the NRA and other opponents of gun control. Gun owners are much likelier to report having contacted an elected official about the issue or donated to a pro-gun organization than are non-owners who support gun control….They’re also likelier to identify themselves as single-issue voters than gun control opponents are, and Republican gun owners are likelier to say their gun owner identity is important to them than Democratic gun owners….Gun ownership is a particularly powerful identity, even starting as early as childhood. “We found that growing up in a household where firearms were present and having a firearm in the home was a strong determinant of how dangerous people thought firearms were,”….Childhood exposure to guns is also a strong determinant of whether people keep firearms to this day….And gun control advocates’ views are also, in significant measure, culturally and identity-determined.” Donald Braman, a professor at George Washington University law school who holds a PhD in anthropology, with his Yale colleague Dan Kahan write “Cultural orientations have an impact on gun control attitudes that is over three times larger than being Catholic, over two times larger than fear of crime, and nearly four times larger than residing in the West.” Matthews concludes, “What no one seems to know is how to make the debate less about identity and more about evidence — or if such a move is even possible. It might be that the most we can hope for is an ever-escalating clash of identities that somehow results, against all odds, in sensible policy.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes psychological dimensions of political polarization, including ‘sorting,’ ideological and ‘affective’ polarization” and writes, “Today, even scholars of polarization are polarized.” He argues that “the issue is not the lack of an ideological and partisan electorate but the dominance of polarized elected officials and voters, some driven by conviction, others by a visceral dislike of the opposition, and still others by both.” edsall quotes Johns Hopkins political scientist Lilliana Mason, who has argued, “American identities are better than American opinions at explaining conflict.” Further, the “key factor underpinning growing polarization and the absence of moderate politicians….Most legislative polarization is already baking into the set of people who run for office,” Andrew Hall, a political scientist at Stanford, wrote in his book, “Who Wants to Run: How the Devaluing of Political Office Drives Polarization”: “Indeed, when we look at the ideological positions of who runs for the House, we see the set of all candidates — not just incumbents — has polarized markedly since 1980.”…This trend results from the fact that since “the winning candidate gets to influence ideological policies” in increasingly polarized legislatures and the Congress, “the ideological payoffs of running for office are not equal across the ideological spectrum.” As a result, “when costs of running for office are high or benefits of holding office are low, more moderate candidates are disproportionately less likely to run.”….In other words, polarization has created its own vicious circle, weeding out moderates, fostering extremists and constraining government action even in times of crisis.”


Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr.s “Why racism is bad for White people” at The Washington Post provides some useful strategy analysis for Democratic campaigns: “Racism is bad for all of us, White people included….Racism is immoral and has, again and again, led to deadly violence toward our fellow human beings. It is also a dysfunctional force in our polity. It has been used to divide those who should be allies. It casts politics as a zero-sum struggle. It blocks us from seizing shared opportunities. Racism advantages demagoguery over thoughtfulness and hostility over empathy….Perhaps because the term is thrown around so freely, I’d insist that those who condemn racism should not be accused of “virtue signaling.” I’m not fond of the phrase because, in principle, advancing virtue is an absolute necessity in a democratic republic. The idea that free societies depend on public and private virtue is no less true for being ancient — and condemning racism is always the right thing to do….Nonetheless, the popular meaning of the term speaks to an understandable impatience with those who appear to be casting themselves as morally superior and flaunting a more elevated consciousness….Those who would defeat racism need to promote the urgency of solidarity across racial lines without conveying self-satisfied arrogance. In particular, othering White working-class Americans as an undifferentiated mass of unenlightened souls is about the worst strategy imaginable for promoting greater harmony….White working-class racism exists and needs to be confronted. But as a moral matter, White working-class grievances created by economic injustice deserve a response. As a practical matter, the imperatives of coalition politics in a diverse nation require advocates of equal rights and social justice to build alliances across the lines of race that include all Americans facing forms of marginalization….This is why I appreciated Heather McGhee’s argument in her important book “The Sum of Us,” summarized in its subtitle: “What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” Zero-sum thinking, she wrote, “has always optimally benefited only the few while limiting the potential of the rest of us, and therefore the whole.”….As McGhee told Vox’s Sean Illing, “The zero-sum story is the idea that there’s this massive dividing line between Black people and white people, that they’re on opposite teams, and that progress for people of color has to come at white people’s expense.”…Fighting this idea is central to overcoming racism. The possibility of shared advancement helps explain the finding of political scientists Paul Frymer and Jacob M. Grumbach that “white union members have lower racial resentment and greater support for policies that benefit African Americans.”…Unions, they note, need to recruit diverse memberships and are in the business of selling and realizing the idea that workers, no matter their backgrounds, can move forward together. It’s no accident that provoking ethnic and racial division has long been an instrument in the toolbox of union busting.”

Adam Wollner notes at CNN Politics that tomorrow, ” five states will hold primary elections. But it’s Georgia that will be at the center of the spotlight, hosting high-profile races up and down the ballot…. “710,137: That’s how many people have voted early in the state through Thursday, which is a record, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. It marks a 180% increase from the same point in the early voting period in 2018 and a 149% increase compared to 2020. Early voting in Georgia ends Friday.”….Manu Raju and Alex Rodgers explain “How Herschel Walker united the right and has Democrats plotting for a fight,” also at CNN Politics: “Walker has had a cakewalk of a primary, skipping a handful of debates or forums, avoiding getting pinned down on policy positions and mostly limiting press appearances to the safe spaces of conservative media. In mid-May, a Fox News poll showed Walker with 66% support from Georgia Republican primary voters — unchanged since March….But after his expected blowout victory in Tuesday’s primary, the scrutiny is only bound to intensify. Democrats are privately planning an aggressive campaign spotlighting Walker’s vulnerabilities, business record, policy views and dirty laundry about the candidate’s past, including his violent behavior with his ex-wife, according to a source familiar with the matter….Walker has said he has dissociative identity disorder, which was previously known as multiple personality disorder, and has sought to advise people with mental health problems….” In “The high-stakes Georgia primaries, by the numbers,…In 2008, his ex-wife claimed that he threatened her life, pointing a gun to her head a handful of times and a straight razor to her throat; Walker said in an interview that year that he didn’t remember being violent toward her, but he didn’t deny it and noted that one of the symptoms of his disorder was blackouts….In 2012, an ex-girlfriend told authorities that Walker had also threatened to kill her and “blow her head off” and then “blow his head off.” After the allegation was reported last year, Walker’s spokesman said the candidate “emphatically denies these false claims.”…And a third woman also said Walker threatened and stalked her in 2002. Walker’s campaign previously declined to respond to the woman’s allegations or discuss the police report….Top Democrats believe that Walker will collapse as the fight between freshman Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Walker intensifies.”

From “Is the center shrinking in the Democratic primaries? Democratic voters are moving their party to the left — and dragging candidates with them” by Christian Paz at Vox: “This year’s Democratic primaries are being largely framed as an ideological struggle between the national party’s moderate and progressive wings. But voting patterns over the last few weeks have complicated that narrative….In marquee contests in Pennsylvania and Oregon, progressive wins led to proclamations that the left wing of the party is gaining influence, while some moderate victories defied that thinking. What’s becoming clear as votes are counted, however, is that Democratic primary voters seem to care less about who the “progressive candidate” is and more about if candidates are campaigning on progressive goals. What many of the Democrats who won this week have in common is that they all embraced progressive priorities tailored to where they were running….Perhaps nowhere encapsulated this reality better than swing-state Pennsylvania, where a relatively progressive and locally trusted candidate who repeatedly rejected the progressive label — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — trounced the more moderate, Washington favorite, Rep. Conor Lamb, in the primary race for the US Senate….Around the state, candidates who delivered digestible versions of progressive messages did well, from the left-leaning candidates who won races in heavily Democratic areas for state and federal legislatures to the moderate incumbents who survived tough challenges from the left. In nearly all of these races, a general shift to the left was apparent among the party’s base and candidates….This trend isn’t necessarily universal: Plenty of more traditional moderate Democrats won their races in Ohio and North Carolina. And it’s possible upcoming races in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas may upset this narrative. But for the most part, the primaries so far appear to show that progressive activism and ideas have changed what primary voters want and what their candidates are offering….What does tie a lot of Tuesday’s races together, though, is how few moderates ran openly down the middle of the ideological spectrum without co-opting at least some of the issues and language progressives have used in previous races. That includes things like advocating for a higher minimum wage, expanding health care access and coverage, more openly embracing gun control and abortion rights, and at least addressing climate change….The general election may in turn change the way these candidates talk about their priorities. The citizens who typically turn out to vote in November tend to be less ideological and party-affiliated than the voters who participate in primary elections. And the progressive ideals beloved by hardcore Democrats may not be as well received by moderates and centrists in competitive general election seats….If progressives — and progressive ideas — do win uphill battles in these swing districts, however, Democrats may end up with a newly empowered left flank, catalyzing the political polarization Americans have come to expect from their government.”

At Daily Kos, check out “Democrats can’t take working-class Black and Latino voters for granted. Data shows they have been” by Ian Reifowitz.” Reifowitz, author of “The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump ,” writes: “What else do working-class voters who are gettable for Democrats have to say on the specific question of how progressives can win their votes? After conducting a survey specifically of these voters (those surveyed did not have a four-year college degree, and did not identify as Republicans), Jacobin, YouGov, and the Center for Working-Class Politics presented the answers these voters provided:

  1. Focus on “bread-and-butter economic issues (jobs, health care, the economy)” framed in “plainspoken, universal terms.” This was especially important in rural/small-town regions.
  2. Specifically name “elites as a major cause of America’s problems” and “celebrate the working class.”
  3. Don’t “surrender questions of social justice to win working-class voters,” but refrain from using “highly specialized, identity-focused language” to express those positions. The full report gave examples of these kinds of terms, as tested in the survey: “systemic injustice,” “cultural appropriation,” “equity,” “Latinx,” and “BIPOC.” This language garnered less support than other Democratic messages. This disparity in terms of support was especially acute among blue-collar as opposed to white-collar working-class voters.

The authors added that working-class voters also responded much more positively overall to working-class candidates than wealthier ones, whereas a candidate’s race and gender were not a factor. Finally, the surveys indicated that few “low-propensity voters” decide to not vote because candidates aren’t progressive enough….Maybe altering the messaging—along with other crucial steps like remaining consistently engaged with marginalized communities, not just in election season—to address this gap will help campaigns pick up a point, or two, or three overall in this fall’s races. And maybe that would be enough to move a dozen—hey, we’ll take even a handful—of House races from the red column to the blue. Or to flip the result of U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, or Nevada. Turning even a small number of losses into victories could make the difference in control of one or both houses of Congress. The same goes for state legislatures and races for governor.”


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should be cautiously optimistic about the results of the Pennsylvania primary. But columnist Paul Muschick, writing in Allentown’s The Morning Call, observes, “Gov. Doug Mastriano….If that has you rummaging for your Tums, you have plenty of company. Save some for me….The Republican establishment did all it could to prevent Mastriano, a 2020 election conspiracy champion and friend of the QAnon crowd, from winning Tuesday. It doesn’t think he has a prayer of beating well-financed Democrat Josh Shapiro in November….Right-leaning Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs refused to endorse Mastriano, saying in a statement that he “would not be able to win the swing voters necessary to win in November.”….It seems as if Shapiro wanted Mastriano to be his opponent, too. He was running attack ads against him before the primary. But don’t count Mastriano out….It would be easy to predict the November gubernatorial election will be a repeat of 2018, when even-keeled, borderline boring Democrat Tom Wolf trounced Scott Wagner, a brash-talking Trump clone….I wouldn’t make that bet. The Mastriano-Shapiro race will be tight.” At Sabagto’s Crystal Ball, J. Miles Coleman writes, “Republicans are concerned about their chances in the open Pennsylvania gubernatorial race after far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) won the party’s nomination. We’re moving that race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic.”

Those following center vs. left trendlines in the Democratic miderm campaigns should read “‘Success begets success’: Progressives look for big boost from key primary wins” by Elena Schneider and Ally Mutnick at Politico. Some excerpts: “Progressives had a big night in their drive to remake the Democratic Party — when their candidates weren’t getting washed away in a flood of super PAC money….There was more outside spending in Tuesday’s Democratic House primaries than in all of their 2020 primaries combined, much of it used to boost moderate Democrats or bash progressive ones. But progressive candidates in several key races showed they could survive the deluge….Summer Lee, who rallied with Sen. Bernie Sanders last week, is hanging on to a narrow Democratic primary lead for a deep-blue seat based in Pittsburgh, where she faced $2 million in negative spending against her. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), one of only two incumbents endorsed so far in 2022 by President Joe Biden, is trailing badly in his redrawn district to Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an Elizabeth Warren-backed challenger who was outspent on TV 11-to-1 by Schrader and his allies, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm….And this week’s marquee Senate contest was a crowning achievement for the left: John Fetterman, a Sanders supporter who shuns intra-party labels altogether, beat out moderate Rep. Conor Lamb for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania….There were notable losses for the progressive wing, as well, in North Carolina and Kentucky, where a trio of more moderate Democratic House candidates won primaries — with significant super PAC support. But overall, the results represented a step forward in progressives’ bid to reshape the Democratic congressional caucuses with new faces and more left-leaning policy views….“Success begets success, so moderates were emboldened by Shontel Brown’s victory [in Ohio earlier this month], and Summer Lee will embolden Jessica Cisneros and Kina Collins,” Shahid continued, citing a pair of progressive challengers running against incumbents in the upcoming Texas and Illinois primaries.” Looking ahead, however, Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said that Tuesday’s primaries were “an indication that our strategy is working … but we can also do math, and we understand what it means when people are making seven-digit buys” against progressive candidates….Even more of that type of race is on the horizon, including member-versus-member primaries and open-seat battles in Illinois, California, New York and Florida.”

In “The Battle for State Legislatures” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Louis Jaobson explains “Given the longstanding polarization and gridlock in Washington, D.C., state lawmakers will decide many key policies state-by-state — particularly on reproductive health issues if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade this year. Legislatures could also try to meddle in presidential elections, as then-President Donald Trump asked some to do after the 2020 election….When all the ballots were counted [in 2020], Democrats failed to flip a single GOP-held chamber; the GOP flipped 2, both in New Hampshire. Today, the playing field looks likely to be considerably smaller….This is my first handicapping of state legislative control for the 2022 election cycle….Our analysis is based on interviews with dozens of state and national political sources….At this point, we see 4 chambers as Toss-ups. Of these, 3 of 4 are held by Democrats and are considered prime GOP targets of opportunity: the Maine Senate and House, and the Minnesota House. Meanwhile, the fourth Toss-up is the Democrats’ best target: the Republican-held Michigan Senate….Meanwhile, 3 chambers rate as Lean Republican. One is Democratic-held, and thus leans toward a flip: the Alaska House….The other 2 Lean Republican chambers are the Michigan House and the Minnesota Senate. Both are currently held by the GOP. (Not counting Alaska, Minnesota is the only state that has elections scheduled this year that has its 2 chambers under divergent partisan control — Virginia is another, but it holds legislative elections in odd-numbered years.)…Finally, we rate 3 chambers Lean Democratic: the Colorado Senate, Nevada Senate, and Oregon Senate….All told, that’s 10 chambers that rate as competitive — a relatively small number for recent cycles. Most of them are held by Democrats, putting the party on defense.”

Jacobson shares this map showing current party control of the state legislatures: