washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a must-read column, “The government doesn’t have to take over everything. But it should expand choice,” which distills a powerful argument for the public option and an antidote to simplistic government-bashing. As Dionne writes, “When a government bureaucrat fails us, the response is often along the lines of: “Typical government.” But when a private sector bureaucrat fails us, almost nobody says: “Typical private sector.”…We should worship neither the state nor the private sector. But after decades of reflexively running down government, we need to rediscover what it actually does, and can do…For this reason, I hope every 2020 presidential candidate — yes, I’m being optimistic about President Trump — reads the policy book of the summer, “The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity and Promote Equality,” by Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott. The two law professors are not interested in government taking over everything. On the contrary, what they seek is to expand choice.”

Dionne continues, “A public option, they write, “provides an important service at a reasonable cost, and it co-exists, quite peaceably, with one or more private options offering the same service.” Thus: You can use the post office, or ship with FedEx or UPS. You can stay in a national park or go to a private resort. You can use a public library or buy a book. You can head down the fairway at a municipal golf course or join a country club…Notice that while public options are available to everyone, they’re especially useful for those who don’t have a lot of money. Sitaraman and Alstott suggest new areas where they could be helpful: for health insurance, where the idea is already popular; for child care; for retirement savings to supplement Social Security; and for basic banking. The last could address the needs of roughly 14 million Americans, many with low incomes, who have neither checking nor savings accounts…The authors are under no illusion that every public option will work well all the time, and they acknowledge the difficulties faced by public schools and public housing. But they also rightly insist that the problems facing both are aggravated by “America’s intense residential segregation by race and by class.”

Dionne adds, “Critics of public options might call them socialism. But as Sitaraman and Alstott note, “public options can benefit the private sector.” They can create a more fluid labor market by providing health insurance and retirement coverage that individuals can take with them from one employer to another, thus easing “job lock.” They can also introduce more competition into concentrated markets. Municipally provided broadband, for example, might provide a consumer-friendly alternative to a monopoly provider of high-cost, poor-service Internet connections.” This point about the public option being a major assett to busines, particularly small businesses, has been woefully undersold by Democrats, who could reap huge political rewards if small business people gave full consideration to the savings they would get from public option health insurance alone.

Harry Enten reports at CNNPolitics: A new national CNN/SSRS poll finds that President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40%. His disapproval rating is 54%. His approval rating is down from late June when it was 43%. His disapproval rating is slightly up from 52% in late June…Take a look at these other probability-based polls that meet CNN’s standards and were completed over the last two weeks.
  • AP-NORC puts the President’s approval rating at 36%, down from 38%.
  • Fox News gave Trump a 43% approval rating, a decrease from 46%.
  • Gallup shows Trump’s approval rating at 41%, down from 42% in late July and 44% in early July.
  • Monmouth University pegs Trump’s approval rating at 40%, down from 41%.
  • NBC News/Wall Street Journal found Trump had an approval rating of 43% among all adults, a decrease of 2 points from 45% in July among registered voters and 1 point from 44% in their last poll that surveyed all adults in June.

At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr. shares “Four Interesting Findings From The Recent Flurry Of 2020 Polls,” including: “Biden does about equally well among men and women. In fact, the leading Democratic candidates — Biden, Sanders, Warren and Kamala Harris — all have coalitions that are roughly balanced in terms of gender, according to Pew. So there’s not really a gender gap among Democratic primary voters — at least so far…But the gender of the candidates appears to be more of a factor. Polling suggests Harris and Warren are appealing to the same kinds of voters: people with college degrees — both men and women. A disproportionate share of both Harris and Warren’s support comes from college graduates, per the Pew data. In short, maybe college graduates, more so than women, are open to or excited about a female presidential candidate — or at least Harris and Warren in particular. Or conversely, non-college voters — both men and women — have so far been less likely to support the top-tier women running.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Bacon notes that “46 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 51 percent disapprove, according to a new AP-NORC poll. His approval numbers are lower on other issues, including gun policy (36 percent approve, 61 disapprove), health care (37-60), immigration (38-60) and foreign policy (36-61).” It’s hard to see how Trump’s numbers get better on any of these issues, particularly amid growing concerns about his trade war policies.

Bacon also notes that “In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.3 percentage points (46.2 percent to 39.9 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.2 points (46.1 percent to 39.9 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.4 points (46.2 percent to 39.8 percent).” We hasten to add, however, that gerrymandered congressional districts render such a broad national average nearly useless for predicting the final Democratic/Republican breakdown of the House when all of the 2020 ballots are counted. But the poll does serve as a general indication of how the Democrats are doing from week to week, and for now, a 6.3 edge looks pretty good.

At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza shares some salient thoughts on the importance of crowd size in assessing a Elizabeth Warren’s momentum: “Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren spoke in front of 15,000 people at a campaign rally in Seattle, Washington…And, the Seattle crowd wasn’t an anomaly.  In St. Paul, Minnesota last week, Warren’s campaign estimated 12,000 people turned out to see her.  She had an estimated 4,000 people at a town hall in Los Angeles earlier this month…Where do Warren’s crowds fit on that spectrum between Romney’s false positive and Obama’s, uh, true, positive?  It’s hard to say definitely at the moment but here’s what we know:

1. Being able to attract 15,000 people to a campaign rally in late August of an off year is pretty impressive
2. Crowd size, particularly in a primary, is a generally consistent indicator of organic energy
3.  Polling — including a new Monmouth University national poll released on Monday — suggest Warren is on the rise
When you factor in that context, Warren’s crowds of late almost certainly are an indicator of genuine momentum and excitement surrounding her candidacy.  No . matter what any of her rivals might say behind closed doors (or in public) about what Warren’s crowds mean (or don’t mean), you can be sure that each and every one of them would LOVE to be able to draw in the numbers that the Massachusetts Senator is right now.”

To conclude on a positive note, Ed Kilgore explains why “Democrats Disagree About Labels, Not About Issues” at New York Magazine: “There is no hoarier meme in American politics than “Democrats in disarray.”You know, the assumption that (to trot out as many clichés as possible in one sentence) the Donkey Party is deeply divided between progressives and centrists, the Establishment and insurgents, the left and the middle, populist base-mobilizers and moderate swing-voter-persuaders, perpetually forming a circular firing squad and making life easier for the GOP and assorted other Bad People. Add in disagreements over racial, ethnic, and gender identity as well as arguments about whether economics should trump culture, and you do have the appearance of a party that doesn’t know its own mind, particularly when Democratic tribes trade insults…With the exception of gun control (on which both parties are pretty strongly united), Democrats are more united on issues than Republicans are. When you look at different self-identified ideological “tribes” of Democrats, issue differences do exist, but they aren’t as large as you might expect, particularly between liberals and moderates (the most divisive issue is immigration, but even liberals are divided significantly on that)…And when you look at levels of issue agreement for Democrats across demographic categories, the party really does begin to seem like one whose differences are more symbolic than substantive. Old folks, for example, are as likely to be “liberal” on issues as under-30s, and racial-ethnic differences aren’t dramatic either…And perhaps when the subject at hand is policy or attitudes toward the 45th president, rather than abstract questions about the ideological future of the party, Democrats are not really that much in disarray.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Abolishing the Filibuster Is Unavoidable for Democrats” at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes: “Even if Democrats regain unified control of the White House and Congress in 2020, the fate of their ambitious legislative agenda will still likely hinge on a fundamental question: Do they try to end the Senate filibuster?…If the party chooses to keep the filibuster, it faces a daunting prospect: Democrats elected primarily by voters in states at the forefront of the country’s demographic, cultural, and economic changes will likely have their agenda blocked by Republican senators largely representing the smaller, rural states least touched by all of those changes. In fact, since the Senate gives each state two seats, the filibuster allows Republican senators from states representing only about one-fifth of the country’s population to be in a position to stymie Democratic legislation.”

“Much as some Democrats want to do this, the public is not very enthusiastic. In fact, they flat out don’t want to do it…In the latest Monmouth poll (rated A+ by 538), just 35 percent want to impeach Trump and remove him from office, compared to 59 percent who are opposed. And this is not a particularly pro-Trump poll. His approval rating in the poll is just 40 percent and his re-elect number is only 39 percent…But voters just aren’t behind the impeachment idea. Consider the crosstabs from the poll. Noncollege whites are opposed by 67-27–but so are white college graduates, 67-26. Independents are opposed 64-20, residents of swing counties by 65-26 and moderates by 55-36. Even nonwhites are only narrowly in favor, 51-44.” – from Ruy Teixeira’s Facebook page.

Alan I. Abramowitz writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “When it comes to ideological identification, Democratic voters are far more divided than Republican voters. Around two-thirds of Republican voters identify as conservative while fewer than half of Democratic voters identify as liberal. Many observers of the current presidential campaign have cited this fact to argue that ideological divisions are a serious potential threat to Democratic unity, especially if the party nominates a strongly liberal candidate. But a closer examination of recent polling data indicates that when it comes to specific policy issues such as abortion, gun control, and health care, Democratic voters are actually considerably less divided than Republican voters. Moreover, these data show that divisions among Democrats based on age, education, and race are much less significant when it comes to policy issues. What makes this all the more important is that policy preferences appear to have a much stronger influence than ideological identification on voters’ broader political outlook including their opinions of President Trump. These findings suggest that the task of uniting Democrats behind the party’s eventual nominee may not be as difficult as some pundits and political observers have suggested.”

So, “What Does Invoking The 25th Amendment Actually Look Like?,” asks Julia Azai at FiveThirtyEight: “Pundits debate the possibilities of the removal and succession of the president if he is incapacitated. Even former FBI Director James Comey has weighed in on whether Donald Trump is “medically unfit to be president.” (He doesn’t think so.) In the unlikely — but politically fascinating — event that a Cabinet were to use the power to oust a sitting president, what would come next?…Constitutional scholar Brian Kalt points out: “Section 4 is drafted less than perfectly. The best reading of Section 4’s text — and the clear message from its drafting history — is that when the president declares he is able, he does not retake power until either (1) four days pass without the vice-president and Cabinet disagreeing; or (2) he, the president, wins the vote in Congress. But the text is ambiguous on this point and commentators have frequently misread it as allowing the president to retake power immediately upon his declaration of ability.”…The Cabinet, especially as it’s currently constituted, is pretty unlikely to take action against Trump. But Congress has its own set of political pressures, and if the Democratic “wave” happens, we may see a serious attempt to go after the president. If impeachment proceedings don’t get off the ground, Congress could turn to the 25th Amendment: While Congress can’t initiate removal of the president under the amendment, it can convene a body to investigate the president’s fitness to serve — and such legislation has already been proposed.”

Did former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper help or hurt his senate candidacy by running for president? Nathaniel Rakich explores the question, also at FiveThirtyEight: “…Colorado Democrats will have plenty of choices of whom to send up against [Sen. Cory] Gardner: About a dozen Democrats were already running for the Senate nomination in Colorado, and so far they don’t look likely to yield to Hickenlooper. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who led one of the few polls of the primary that didn’t include Hickenlooper, has previously said he would not drop out if Hickenlooper entered the race. And state Sen. Angela Williams released a defiant statement last week warning him to stay out: “If he’s going to switch gears and run for the senate, he has a lot to explain to Colorado voters. This won’t be a coronation.”…Gardner is already one of the most vulnerable senators in the country, a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state who will be forced to share a ballot with President Trump in 2020. So while Hickenlooper could very well beat him, I doubt he’s the only one who could do so.”

Matt Ford observes at The New Republic: ” Trump’s haphazard style of governance forces journalists, lawyers, and government officials to expend innumerable hours on doomed initiatives and errant tweets. His corrosive effect on American politics forces Americans to devote far more hours of their life to thinking about him than they should. All of this amounts to a tax of sorts on the national psyche—one that can never be repaid…The constant exposure to Trump’s rhetoric and governance carries its own measurable toll. Surveys by the American Psychiatric Society (APS), Politico reported last fall, have found a marked increase in stress and anxiety among respondents with regard to the future in recent years. One poll taken shortly after Trump became president found that nearly six in ten Americans thought 2017 was the lowest point in living American memory, surpassing the Vietnam War and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats said they were stressed about the nation’s future, a view shared by clear majorities of Republicans and independents as well.”


Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein explains Trump’s re-election strategy at The Atlantic: “The attempt by the president and his allies to invert the debate about his approach to race captures one of the pillars of his reelection message heading into 2020. They have signaled that, as in 2016, he intends to portray his overwhelmingly white, heavily blue-collar, and nonurban coalition as the real victims in American society. And no issue may offer him a more powerful way to gin up those emotions than insisting that the charges of racism against him—and, by extension, against his core supporters—are themselves a form of bigotry, despite the recent escalation of his rhetoric, most notably telling four Democratic congresswomen of color, all U.S. citizens, to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came…Strategists in both parties, along with independent analysts, largely agree that Trump can energize his supporters by insisting that they are the actual victims of bigotry. But by motivating his core voters in that manner, Trump is utterly dismissing the concerns of the majority of Americans who now consistently describe him in polls as racist or racially insensitive. Like so many of Trump’s choices, that means his response to these accusations is likely to energize his base at the price of limiting his capacity to reach beyond it.”

Brownstein adds, “For the Trump coalition, “an important part of their worldview is victimization and being aggrieved,” says the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who has extensively studied attitudes on race relations. “This continues the victimization narrative…“I think the cost is, he doesn’t attract anybody new,” says Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political scientist and a co-author of Identity Crisis, a book about the role of race in the 2016 presidential election. “And that could be a cost. The man won by 77,000 votes in three states. If African American turnout goes back to the Obama levels, he needs more voters. He could be fighting the last battle.”…In a study of the 2016 election published last year, the Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner and two of his colleagues found that the strongest predictor of support for Trump over Hillary Clinton was a belief that racism is no longer a systemic problem. Using results from a large-sample postelection survey called the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, they found that belief dwarfed economic concerns as a predictor of support for Trump. The conviction that discrimination against women is not a problem also proved a more powerful predictor of Trump support than economic concerns, though not as strong a factor as racial attitudes…The denial of racism “was also the strongest predictor of someone switching from an Obama voter in 2012 to a Trump voter in 2016,” Schaffner said.”

Erin Doherty writes at FiveThirtyEight: “ding to a July poll from Gallup, when asked an open-ended question about the most important problem facing the country, just 2 percent of Americans mentioned the “gap between rich and poor,” and this number hasn’t changed much in over a decade, hovering around 2 or 3 percent. (It’s worth noting that since respondents had to come up with their own answers, even 3 percent support means a sizable number of people mentioned this issue without any prompting.) By contrast, Americans’ views of the importance of the economy have tended to fluctuate with the economy’s performance, as you can see in the chart below — in November 2008, for instance, when the country was in the middle of a recession, 58 percent of Americans mentioned the economy as the most important issue facing the country, whereas today, in a relatively good economy, just 3 percent of Americans said the same…another Gallup poll from late June found that seven out of 10 Americans believed that if they work hard, they can still achieve the “American Dream.” That number is roughly unchanged from 2009. In that same poll, 60 percent of Americans also said it’s either “somewhat” or “very” likely that today’s young people will have better lives than their parents, which is close to the highest that number Gallup has recorded (it got as high as 61 percent in both 2008 and 2018).”

Doherty continues: “Although Americans say socioeconomic inequality isn’t their top priority, many of them support at least one measure that would help close the gap: taxing the wealthy. Many 2020 Democratic candidates have expressed some level of support for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, though the details of their plans vary. If candidates tie their messages of socioeconomic inequality to their plans to tax the rich, that approach could appeal to voters…According to Gallup, a majority of Americans — a bit over 60 percent — say that upper-income people pay too little in taxes, and that percentage has remained relatively unchanged over the last 25 years. And polling on specific proposals that hike the tax rate for the wealthy shows that these ideas get support from most Democrats and many Republicans. For instance, earlier this year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70 percent tax rate on every dollar a person earned over $10 million, and a majority of registered voters supported the idea. The proposal got significant support across the political spectrum, with 71 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans saying they were in favor.”

At Vox, German Lopez has the skinny on “Here’s where every 2020 candidate stands on guns,” and explains that “The candidates agree on universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. There’s less agreement on other proposals.” Lopez notes, further, “Democratic candidates, however, have taken more comprehensive stances on guns. For the most part, they’re sticking to common Democratic themes like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban (which is typically paired with a ban on high-capacity magazines), and federally funded research into gun violence. But the campaigns’ plans do include some new ideas here and there — including red flag laws, which campaigns ranging from Cory Booker’s to John Delaney’s back, and requiring a license to buy and own a gun, which Booker in particular brought to the presidential stage but others, like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, also support…Several candidates, including Booker, Warren, Buttigieg, and Yang, support gun licensing. But others, including Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet, have been critical of it.” Read the article for specifics on each candidate.

In Harry Enten’s “Poll of the Week” at CNN Politics, he notes that, “A new national Fox News poll finds that among black Democratic primary voters, former Vice President Joe Biden is their first choice for the party’s presidential nomination at 37%. He is followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 18%, California Sen. Kamala Harris at 10% and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8%…our last three CNN polls (April, May and June) aggregated together reveals that younger black voters aren’t as enthusiastic about Biden’s candidacy as older black voters are…Overall, our last three CNN polls have Biden at 44% among black voters. No one else is anywhere close; Harris is in second at 14%. Biden’s big league advantage in these polls is similar to the Fox News poll…However, Biden’s standing drops to 36% among black voters under the age of 50. This is lower than the 51% he has among black voters aged 50 and older.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta reports in is “Poll of the Week” that “Americans Are More Worried About White Nationalism After El Paso: But partisans remain far apart.” Mehta notes that “After the deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, this month, more Americans now describe white nationalism as a serious threat to the United States, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Compared to the last time the poll asked this question, in March, both Democrats and Republicans in the latest poll were more likely to say that the country was threatened by white nationalism…But the El Paso shooting, in which the gunman told police that he explicitly targeted Mexicans, has not narrowed the partisan gap on white nationalism. HuffPost/YouGov polls have asked about the threat of white nationalism four times in the two years since a neo-Nazi killed a woman by driving into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and each time there has been a huge partisan gap in perceptions. If anything, the gap has gotten bigger…”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Mehta provides some revealing stats regarding attitudes toward immigration: “According to a YouGov poll. …28 percent of Americans, including 11 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, agreed that immigrants who use public benefits should not be able to receive green cards. Fifty-two percent of Americans think that immigrants who receive benefits should be able to get green cards, and 20 percent said they don’t know… According to a new Gallup poll, 57 percent of Americans (including 85 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans) support allowing refugees who are fleeing Central American countries to enter the U.S. That’s up 6 percentage points from December, including a 10 percentage point jump among Republicans…A poll from the Pew Research Center, however, found that public support for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria is down slightly, from 77 percent in March 2017 to 72 percent this summer. That’s mostly due to dipping support among Republicans.”

Political Strategy Notes

Your sobering thought for the week comes from “Third Party Spoilers Are the Whole Deal, People” by Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, who writes, “For all the arguing and analyzing and prognosticating about the 2020 presidential race I am surprised how little attention has been given to what may or I think likely will play the biggest role in the outcome: third party candidates…One of the truths about the 2016 election is that Donald Trump didn’t do any better in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012 if you’re looking at the percentage of total votes cast. Indeed, he did significantly worse. Romney won 47.2% of the national vote while Trump won 46.1%. Electoral votes count, not popular votes. And that was Trump’s critical advantage. But it’s really the unusually high 5.7% of the vote going to three third party candidates — Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin — that made it possible for Trump to win as a minority candidate.” Marshall addds that Trump “really, really needs the presence of spoiler candidates to pull the contest down into the mid-40s where it was in 2016. I’d never say never. But I think there’s a good argument that a significant third party/spoiler candidacy — or ideally more than one — are the necessary predicate of Trump’s reelection.”

In his post, “The End of the Filibuster May Loom,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Hunter Brown writes, “In 2017, when Republicans had full control of both Congress and the presidency, the party lacked any legislative priorities requiring a filibuster-proof majority. Their two main initiatives, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a tax cut package, both could be passed with 51 votes through the reconciliation process (the ACA repeal couldn’t win a majority in the Senate but the tax cuts passed). Thus, eliminating the legislative filibuster would not have advantaged them…Democrats, eager to pass, among other things, gun control measures, legislation expanding voting rights, and immigration reform, may practically need the elimination of the filibuster to accomplish these and other major goals. Thus, with an ambitious agenda and little chance at 60 seats, the next time Democrats enjoy full control, they very well may pull the trigger and put an end to the filibuster forever…Ironically, while it takes 60 votes to kill a filibuster, it would only take 51 to stop filibusters forever, as it could be changed as a part of the Senate rules, which only requires majority support, every two years.”

From Geoffrey Skelley’s “Who Will Make The Third Democratic Debate (And Who Could Miss It)” at FiveThirtyEight: Time is running out for Democratic candidates to make the third presidential primary debate in September. There are about two weeks left to qualify, and because of the debate’s higher thresholds, it’s likely that there won’t be 20 candidates — although the debate may still span two nights. Nine candidates have already qualified by our count, and a handful of others could also make it. (In previous debates, the Democratic National Committee capped the stage at 10 participants each night, but it hasn’t yet specified what it will do for the third debate.)..However, it is unlikely that the debate field will grow much beyond 12 or 13 candidates, as it’s much harder to qualify this time than it was for the previous two debates. Not only do candidates have to meet both the polling and donor requirements, but they also must meet higher thresholds. To qualify, candidates must attract at least 2 percent support in four qualifying national or early-state polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28, and they must also have 130,000 unique donors (including at least 400 individual donors in at least 20 states).”

Nine Democrats have made the third debate so far

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they qualified for the third primary debate, as of Aug. 12

Joe Biden 13 >130k
Pete Buttigieg 13 >130
Kamala Harris 13 >130
Bernie Sanders 13 >130
Elizabeth Warren 13 >130
Cory Booker 10 >130
Beto O’Rourke 8 >130
Amy Klobuchar 6 >130
Andrew Yang 4 >130
Julián Castro 3 >130
Tulsi Gabbard 1 >130
Tom Steyer 3 65-130
Kirsten Gillibrand 1 65-130
Jay Inslee 0 65-130
Marianne Williamson 0 65-130
John Hickenlooper 1 <65
Michael Bennet 0 <65
Steve Bullock 0 <65
Bill de Blasio 0 <65
John Delaney 0 <65
Seth Moulton 0 <65
Tim Ryan 0 <65
Joe Sestak 0 <65

Meanwhile, at CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza explains how “How failed presidential candidates could hold the key to a Democratic Senate majority in 2020.” Cillizza writes that “candidates like former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock are not, well, prospering in their presidential bids at the moment…It seems unlikely that any of that trio — with the possible exception of O’Rourke, although even that looks like a long shot now — is going to have their desired arc to the top of the presidential field. BUT, all three of them would be absolutely top-tier Senate recruits for Democrats trying to build momentum for a push to the majority next fall. (Senate Democrats need to pick up four seats to retake the majority if they win back the White House and five seats if Trump gets reelected.)…Senate Democrats are content to wait — for now. The deadline for a candidate to file to run for the US Senate in Texas isn’t until December — and in Colorado and Montana it’s not until next year. So there’s time.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait warns that “Russian Election Hacking in 2020 Could Easily Be Much Worse Than 2016,” and he reports, “The Senate report notes that while Russians did not breach voting machines in 2016, they scoped out the defenses in all 50 states. One expert told the committee that Russia was “conducting the reconnaissance to do the network mapping, to do the topology mapping, so that you could actually understand the network, establish a presence, so you could come back later and actually execute an operation…Even more alarming than the implied weaknesses in the voting system is the political context in which they exist. President Trump has frequently either minimized or outright denied Russia’s culpability in the 2016 email hacks (which Trump himself was exploiting at the time). The benign explanation is that the president is merely hypersensitive about the legitimacy of his election. But this fails to explain why Trump also refuses to accept intelligence about Russia’s plans to interfere in the next one…The vulnerabilities of the U.S. voting system certainly furnish Putin with an inviting target. The response, or nonresponse, to the Russian threat by both the administration and the Senate gives us two important pieces of information about a prospective Russian attack. The first is that a hack is more likely to succeed this time around. The insistent passivity of both the administration and the Senate has undermined responses at both the executive and legislative levels.

Chait adds, “What seems clear is that Russia has incentive to act and that such an operation stands at least some chance of succeeding, given that it can go after voting machines almost anywhere and needs to succeed with only a handful of them in order to change the outcome. Every swing state has one or more large cities with a massive concentration of Democratic votes. Tampering with or disabling the vote count in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee, for instance, could throw the election to Trump outright or create the conditions for a disputed result. Either outcome would dovetail with Moscow’s goals of discrediting the democratic process as a sham and keeping Trump in office. This is the dynamic that has preoccupied most coverage of and commentary about the issue.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich reports that “The Movement To Skip The Electoral College May Take Its First Step Back.” As Rakich explains: “In March, the state of Colorado handed a historic win to opponents of the Electoral College by becoming the first purple state to sign on to the National Popular Vote interstate compact. Next November, however, it could make history yet again by becoming the first state to renege on the agreement…the compact only goes into effect once states worth 270 electoral votes (a majority in the Electoral College) have joined, thus ensuring that its signatories have enough electoral votes to guarantee that the national popular vote winner becomes president. Currently, 15 states plus the District of Columbia, together worth 196 electoral votes, have ratified the compact…Four of those states, including Colorado, joined the National Popular Vote movement just this year.” However, “opponents in Colorado were upset enough about its passage that they are now actively trying to repeal the law. Earlier this month, the organization Coloradans Vote said it submitted more than 227,198 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state in an effort to subject the law to voter referendum in the 2020 election. With that number of signatures, chances are very good it will make the ballot, making it the first time voters in any state will vote directly on the National Popular Vote compact.

Rakich continues, “The only poll about the National Popular Vote law I could find in Colorado was a March survey from Republican pollster Magellan Strategies that found 47 percent of likely 2020 voters would vote to affirm the National Popular Vote law and 47 percent would vote to repeal it. However, even if those numbers are too rosy for the repeal effort, I would still expect support for the law to decrease as opponents prosecute the case against the National Popular Vote, so even a lead of, say, 10 points (akin to the national breakdown) would not be secure. This could be one of the most closely watched ballot measures of the 2020 cycle…Nationally, 53 percent of Americans said the popular vote should determine the president, and 43 percent said the Electoral College should, according to an April/May NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Unsurprisingly, given that almost every state government to pass the National Popular Vote compact was completely controlled by Democrats, there is a wide partisan gap on the question: 79 percent of Democrats preferred the popular vote, while 74 percent of Republicans favored the Electoral College.”

Medicare for all…with a Public Option?

You’ve read the arguments for Medicare for All, and you appreciate the inclusiveness of the proposal, note the success of it in many other countries and believe the economies of scale it would provide make it the most cost-effective system for the U.S. But you are also familiar with the reality that polls indicate millions of voters are happy with their private health insurance and a public option system is a much easier sell.

But if you are wondering if there is a range of policies in between these two choices, read “Here’s how we can have ‘Medicare for all‘ with a private option” by Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, professor emeritus at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and co-author of “Understanding Health Policy.Bodenheimer shares some recent data points:

According to CNN 2018 exit polls 41 percent of voters named health care as their most important issue. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 56 percent of the public supports “Medicare for all,” but 74 percent wants to keep their existing insurance. Seventy-seven percent, including 69 percent of Republicans, favor allowing everyone to choose Medicare as their health insurance.

When asked which health-care legislation Congress should focus on, 52 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leading independents chose improving the Affordable Care Act versus 39 percent picking Medicare for all.

Of course most such polling data is profoundly influenced by the phrasing of questions. But Bodenheimer’s data does suggest that many Americans are ambivalent about picking one with wholesale rejection of the other option. As a political junkie, I favor the public option, politics being the art of the possible and all that. But do we really have to pick one and ditch the other? Like Peggy Lee asked, ‘Is that all there is?’

Bodenheimer says no, “These seemingly opposing stances can be reconciled with a united front for health care. A united front means that progressives and moderates put aside their differences for now.” I doubt it’s as simplistic as ‘progressive vs. moderates’ — lots of progressives favor the public option, and I’m sure there are some moderates who have eperienced economic ruin because of crappy private health insurance, and are way ready for Medicare for All.

Bodenheimer cites three principles of a middle way forward:

1) Providing immediate relief from the burden of health-care costs

2) Over time, offering an improved Medicare to all Americans

3) Allowing people to keep their private health insurance – the “private option.” Most urgent is health-care cost relief.

Bodenheimer cites compelling data illustrating the unacceptable costs of halth care policy paralysis – skyrocketing premiums, the heavy burden of deductables and endless out-of-pocket expenses. Then there is sdrug company price gouging, coverage shortfalls in Medicare etc. He acknowledges that “any Medicare for all plan must improve Medicare to reduce the bills that Medicare patients have to pay themselves.” Further,

If the Medicare age went down from 65 to 55, we would receive a Medicare card shortly after our 55th birthday. Or Medicare might automatically cover children under 18. Over time, everyone would receive a Medicare card in the mail. We would have the private option. But we would be insured from the moment we are born until the day we die.

The details of financing must be debated. A couple of things might be important. First, to keep taxes down, employers whose employees choose Medicare should pay into Medicare the same amount that they were paying for those employees’ private insurance. Otherwise, employers would save a lot of money at taxpayers’ expense

Second, the social security contributions employers and employees pay to support Medicare would rise, especially for higher-income people. When we are young and healthy, we pay so that when we become old and sick, we benefit.

It’s not hard to envision widespread support for all of those approaches. You could also chuck into the mix catastropic coverage for all, with a public option approach for preventative and maintenance care. It’s not an either/or choice, unless that’s all that makes it to floor votes in the House and Senate.

As Bodenheimer concludes, “If Democrats win the White House and Congress, a transition to Medicare for all with the private option becomes possible. In the meantime, Democrats need to come together in a united front that can defeat Donald Trump and relieve people’s suffering from health-care costs.”

Medicare for All advocates Sens. Sanders and Warren surely know this, as does former V.P. Biden and the improve Obamacare and public option supporters. But they also know they have to strongly argue one or the other to push the debate. So far it’s working well, with the side benefit of revealing how utterly bankrupt the Republicans are in terms of both morals and ideas for health care reform.

Political Strategy Notes

Democratic candidates have been pretty passive about promoting their party, which may help explain  why the party underperforms in polls. The thinking of too many Democratic candidates at all levels seems to be something like “The party doesn’t do well in polls, so I won’t talk about it much. I’ll just emphasize my individual accomplishments and bash Republicans.” But it’s not enough to assume, for example, that everyone knows Democrats have spearheaded the charge for needed economic reforms, such as a minimum wage increase. Dems should say, again and again that they, almost alone, have passed minimum wage bills across America over strident GOP opposition. At U.S. News, Susan Milligan reports that “A recent economic journal paper – considered the most comprehensive modern look at the impact of state and local minimum wage increases – analyzes 138 minimum wage increases over the past five years. The result? Pretty much what the proponents intended, says Arindrajit Dube, a professor at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst and one of the study’s authors.“..What we found was these policies have the intended consequence of raises wages at the bottom” of the income scale and “have some degree of spillover beyond the minimum wage,” since other employers tend to hike their own wages when the minimum wage increases…“ Brag more, Dems, about your party’s leadership, not just your own. That’s one way we can improve the party’s image.

Mueller is done, but Democratic presidential candidates, and perhaps all Democratic candidates and political reporters should read “Here Are the Questions a Shrink Would Have Asked Mueller: Three psychiatrists analyzed the Mueller Report to assess the president’s soundness of mind. Their conclusion: This is a national emergency” by Bandy X. Lee, Edwin B. Fisher, And Leonard L. Glass at The Daily Beast. The shrinks are the authors of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” and their questions open up some critical concerns for further consideration. The last question, in particular, hits the core concern squarely: “5) As a prosecutor, do you see a nexus between the president’s hate speech and danger to others as targets of his rhetoric?” Read the questions and answers for some useful insights regarding how to discuss Trump’s mental health.

Next time somebody gives you the old “Congress is bought off by the NRA” false equivalence routine, just show them this list of 178 co-sponsors of H.R. 5087, the 2018 bill to ban assault-style weapons, 177 of whom are Democrats.

Also check out “Here’s where every 2020 candidate stands on guns: The candidates agree on universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. There’s less agreement on other proposals” by German Lopez at Vox. Lopez notes, “President Donald Trump, for his part, doesn’t seem interested in much. He has supported a federal red flag law, which would allow police to take away someone’s guns if there’s some proof of a risk of violence (a “red flag”). But on other measures, from universal background checks to an assault weapons ban, Trump and Republican lawmakers have resisted, instead talking up questionable connections between violence, mental illness, and violent media…Democratic candidates, however, have taken more comprehensive stances on guns. For the most part, they’re sticking to common Democratic themes like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban (which is typically paired with a ban on high-capacity magazines), and federally funded research into gun violence. But the campaigns’ plans do include some new ideas here and there — including red flag laws, which campaigns ranging from Cory Booker’s to John Delaney’s back, and requiring a license to buy and own a gun, which Booker in particular brought to the presidential stage but others, like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, also support.” Lopez provides more details on the positions of each candidate.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans see felon disenfranchisement as the cruel, pointless and counterproductive punishment that it is. It serves no purpose other than to prevent millions of Americans from more fully participating in society. That’s why many states have loosened or gotten rid of their felon disenfranchisement laws in recent years. Vermont and Maine have gone even further, allowing people in prison to vote — as is the case in most European countries. Last time we checked, all are still functioning democracies. — A choice paragraph from the NYT editorial, “Why Are Florida Republicans So Afraid of People Voting?

In other voter suppression news, you may have missed “New Hampshire’s Republican governor just vetoed a bipartisan redistricting commission” by Danielle McLean at Think Progress. Among her observations: “New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have allowed an independent redistricting committee to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district maps in 2021 and beyond…The veto is just the latest sign that Republican Party leaders want to control the map-making process and preserve a system that allowed them to racially and politically gerrymander at historic proportions in several GOP-controlled states the last time district lines were redrawn in 2011…While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this year that federal courts do not have the power to decide partisan gerrymandering cases, a growing number of states have established independent commissions to draw district maps in a non-partisan manner. New Hampshire would have joined eight other states to have established such a commission…Under the current system, New Hampshire’s legislature, which is currently controlled by Democrats, is responsible for drawing up the state’s political lines. The governor has the ability to veto or approve any maps.”

McLean continues, “Heading into 2021, Republicans appear poised to once again gerrymander and leave the process up to the lawmakers themselves…Next week, the shadowy group that crafts far-right legislation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, at its annual meeting in Austin, Texas, will host a pair of closed-door workshops teaching state lawmakers the basics of ‘redistricting.’ Government watchdog groups warn those panels will in reality teach them how to gerrymander and pair them with the mapmakers that can help them draw partisan lines…Last year, ALEC created a model resolution that reaffirmed “the right of state legislatures to determine electoral districts” instead of the courts…And former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — who helped usher Wisconsin’s extreme gerrymandered districts in 2011 and is now leading the GOP’s redistricting efforts in 2021 as the finance chair of the National Republican Redistricting Trust — has also claimed that rural residents should be counted more than urban residents when the maps are drawn.”

Nate Silver shares a revealing chart in his post, “Forget ‘Lanes.’ The Democratic Primary Is A Whole Freaking Transit System” at FiveThirtyEight:

Who Sanders and Clinton voters from 2016 support now

Combined results from a July 6-8 and a July 27-29 national poll

Bernie Sanders 9% 31%
Joe Biden 43 19
Elizabeth Warren 15 13
Kamala Harris 18 10
Pete Buttigieg 4 6
Andrew Yang 0 5
Beto O’Rourke 2 4
Tulsi Gabbard 0 3
Cory Booker 1 1
Others 7 8


At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz deploys some regression analysis and scatterplotting to answer the question, “Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election Results? and concludes, “I find no evidence that Russian attempts to target voters in key swing states had any effect on the election results in those states. Instead, the results were almost totally predictable based on the political and demographic characteristics of those states, especially their past voting tendencies, ideological leanings, and demographics. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Russians weren’t trying to influence the results or that they might not succeed in the future. Nor does it speak to Russian efforts to hack into U.S. voting systems and potentially alter voter registration data or even election results themselves…There are plenty of grounds for real concern here. Indeed, the Electoral College system used to choose the president almost invites efforts to interfere in the election. Whereas trying to affect the national popular vote results would probably be prohibitively expensive, efforts to target a few key swing states could be much more cost-effective and harder to detect. As a result, there is little doubt that these efforts will continue in 2020 and beyond, especially if we have a president who seems to be inviting them.”

Progressive Boycott Freaks Out Republicans

It probably won’t break your heart that the “Owner of SoulCycle and the Miami Dolphins faces outrage and calls for boycott over Trump fundraiser,” as Brian Ries reports at CNN Politics. What it ought to do is gladden the hearts of, not just Democrats, but every sentient being who cares about American democracy and human decency.

As Ries, writes,

The billionaire owner of Equinox is planning a high-dollar Hamptons fundraiser for President Donald Trump, leading to calls for a boycott of the luxury gym and its associated businesses SoulCycle and Blink Fitness.

Real estate developer Stephen Ross — who is chairman and majority owner of the Related Companies, which oversees Equinox Fitness — will host a luncheon on Friday, according to the invitation, at which attendees will pay up to $100,000 for a picture with the President and $250,000 to listen in on a roundtable discussion.
The Washington Post first reported the fundraiser, sparking the outrage. The news didn’t sit well with some people who frequent the gym, who assailed it as supporting a President whose inflammatory rhetoric and policies targeting people of color are out of sync with the gym’s progressive and oftentimes famous clientele.

Related Companies Chairman Stephen Ross tried to minimize his suport of Trump, parroting a lot of yada yada about his embrace of diversity etc. But hosting and organizing a Trump fund-raiser is a lot worse than writing Trump’s campaign a check, which alone would merit a progressive boycott.

For too long, Democrats have forfeited one of their most potentially powerful tools for social and economic progress — economic withdrawall. However, we live in a political climate that allows the Republican President of the U.S. and members of his administration to boycott congressional subpoenas and refuse all requests for information. The Republican Senate Majority Leader also feels free to unilaterally stonewall all progressive legislation and prevent meetings and hearings with a Democratic president’s nominee to the U. S. Supreme Court. Isn’t it time for Democratic rank and file to leverage their dormant power as consumers to achieve needed reforms?

Yes, boycotts are problematic. For one thing, it’s important to make sure that affected labor unions are OK with it. And it’s tough to get a critical mass of awakened consumers mobilized enough to have an effect.

But, you know what is even more problematic? Funding politicians who actively promote racism,  bigotry and white supremacy. Also, Democrats bankrolling a presidential campaign that would screw millions of Americans who have serious health problems, and cheat hard-working Americans of all races out of a living wage. Progressives Financing a reckless president to deny the climate crisis and grease the skids for polluting industries is also a big problem.

The way it is now, the GOP’s sugar daddies get a free ride. They support Trump’s worst initiatives with their hefty contributions, while paying no price whatsoever in term of public opinion. The day that this free ride comes to a halt is the day that American democracy will be renewed and energized. It’s a challenge that must be met by progressive consumers, as well as voters.

Political Strategy Notes

Steve Rosenthal addresses a question of critical consequence at The American Prospect: “Will Trump Steal a March on Democrats in the Midwest? It’s time for Democrats to begin their ground game in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.” As Rosenthal writes, “If you want to talk about “winnability,” let’s note how all three of these states are winnable for Democrats next year. Until 2016, Democratic presidential candidates had carried each of these states in every election since 1992. Have the demographics or voting patterns in each of them changed in such a way that makes them unwinnable for Democrats? Not at all. Hillary Clinton lost Michigan by just 10,704 votes, out of 4.8 million cast; she lost Pennsylvania by 44,292, out of 6.1 million cast; and she lost Wisconsin by just 22,748, out of 3.0 million cast. For those of you doing the math, Clinton lost these three states by approximately 78,000 votes, out of more than 13.9 million cast, and her campaign largely neglected all three states.

Rosenthal continues, “In 2018, however, statewide Democratic candidates stormed to victory in all three states—gubernatorial nominees won by a collective margin of more than 1.2 million votes. By no means, then, are the “big three” moving away from the party, despite their 2016 results. If Democrats do their work right, and begin now, they can lock these states down, denying Trump a path to victory.” However, Rosenthal adds, “But while Democrats are having this debate over vague ideas about electability, Trump’s campaign, which has already raised $124 million, is actively engaging voters in all three of these states. Trump has visited each of them this year and his campaign has been spending huge amounts of money on digital ads there. And yet the latest Morning Consult tracking poll showed Trump’s approval rating under water in Michigan (40 percent), Pennsylvania (44 percent), and Wisconsin (42 percent)…The Democrats’ path to victory in all three states is clear. First and foremost, Democrats must turn out large numbers of voters of color; their drop-off in 2016 doomed Clinton in Michigan (where minority turnout fell by 12.4 percentage points from 2012) and Wisconsin (down by 12.3 percentage points). Next, they must keep in their column the suburban, exurban, and white working-class voters who went from voting for Obama in 2012, to Trump in 2016, then back to the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in 2018.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. makes it clear in his syndicated WaPo column, “On guns and white nationalism, one side is right and one is wrong“: As Dionne writes, “In pursuit of a mythical middle ground, the faint-hearted will counsel against calling out the moral culpability of those who divide, deflect and evade. Meanwhile, the rationalizers of violence will continue to claim that only troubled individuals, not our genuinely insane gun policies, are responsible for waves of domestic terrorism that bring shame on our country before the world…But sane gun laws are the middle ground, and most gun ownerssupport them. Opposing the political exploitation of racism is a moral imperative. And refusing to acknowledge that only one side in this debate seeks intentionally to paralyze us is the path of cowardice.”

From “The Left Needs a Language Potent Enough to Counter Trump: The president’s rhetoric is dangerously populist in nature, and the left doesn’t know how to fight it.”  by George Packer at The Atlantic: “…The language of the contemporary left is anti-populist. Its vocabulary, much of it taken from academia, is the opposite of accessible—it has to be decoded and learned. Terms such as centered, marginalized, intersectional, non-binary, and Eurocentric gender discipline separate outsiders from insiders—that’s part of their intent, as is the insistence on declaring one’s personal pronouns and showing an ability to use them accordingly. Even common words like ally and privilege acquire a resonance that takes them out of the realm of ordinary usage, because the point of this discourse is to create a sense of special virtue. The language of the left also demands continuous refreshing and can change literally overnight: A writer is told that the phrase born male is no longer okay to use and has to be replaced with assigned male at birth. Many of these changes happen by ambush—suddenly and irrevocably, with no visible trail of discussion and decision, and with quick condemnation of holdouts—which gives them a powerful mystique…The language of the left creates a hierarchy of those who get it and those who don’t. Mastering the vocabulary is a way of signaling entry into a select world of the knowing and the just. The system is closed—there’s an internal logic that can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question. In this sense, though much of the language of the left has academic origins, its use in the public square is almost religious. The abandonment of language that brings people in rather than shutting them out is one of the left’s many structural disadvantages in American politics today. In fact, it divides the Democratic coalition in a profound way.”

For most of U.S. history, from Thomas Paine to Eugene Debs to Martin Luther King Jr., the left had a populist language of its own,” Packer continues. “It used a simple vocabulary and spoke in universal moral terms that appealed to the basic goodness in people rather than inventing a sophisticated hierarchical code to label their ills. It created insiders and outsiders, but they weren’t divided between the knowing and the unilluminated, the woken and the sleeping. The populism of the left posed the same opposition as Trump’s—the people against the elites—but with very different sets of characters.

Packer concludes, “You still hear notes of this language in the speeches of Senator Elizabeth Warren, with her talk of a “rigged” economy. Though she’s spent most of her adult life in universities, she speaks with a natural plainness that reminds you of her prairie origins. But she’s running for the presidential nomination of a party whose new activists think in and are constrained by a hermetic language of the chosen few. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, another candidate, has embraced it with the zeal of a convert, and at times Warren seems to come under its influence. Trump, with his sadistic instinct for the weaknesses of others, has learned how to hurt Democrats by using divisive rhetoric and waiting for them to walk into a trap of self-enclosure they can’t see. He won’t hesitate to use an event as terrible as El Paso to keep this logic working in his favor. A force as dark and powerful as Trump’s populism can be defeated only by an equal and opposite force.

Emily Stewart explains “Why Joaquin Castro’s tweet of a list of Trump donors is so controversial,” and writes, “Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is under fire for tweeting out a list of donors to President Donald Trump. Why the maneuver is so controversial isn’t entirely clear: It’s all information that was already public…The Texas Democrat and brother to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Monday tweeted a list of 44 San Antonio donors who contributed the maximum amount under federal law to Trump in 2019. “Sad to see so many San Antonians as of 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump,” he wrote, calling out a couple of the city’s better-known donors by their Twitter handles. “Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’..The point of all of this is pretty straightforward: It’s a way to keep campaigns accountable and make sure they’re following the laws, and it also increases transparency for voters to see who is backing campaigns.” In my view, we need more “outing” of big contributors to political campaigns, not less. Most of the information in question is publicly available. But candidates and their staffs should not do it. It’s just asking to be taken off message. The major media has been unduly timid about their responsibility to amplify large donor contributions. But political activists should not hesitate to take it on.

We’ve had our hopes for corrective action dashed before, many times. With that in mind, FiveThirtyEight’s Weekly Political Chat inquires “Will The El Paso Shooting Change How Politicians Talk About White Extremism?” Among the observations, Nate SIlver notes, “There is a cumulative effect even if there’s also a short-term boom-and-bust cycle after significant events. During the midterm elections, for instance, more Democrats than Republicans rated gun policy as a high-priority issue, which is a departure from the old-school conventional wisdom that guns were supposed to rally Republican voters.” Perry Bacon, Jr. adds that “But even though some Republicans — maybe even Trump, I’m not sure — will probably dial down the white nationalist rhetoric, I think the only movement on gun control will happen on the left. Or Democrats will become even more unabashedly party of gun control…generally most Democrats support: 1) expanding background checks, 2) banning assault weapons, and 3) ban high-capacity magazines.”

Daniel Rakich addresses “How Views On Gun Control Have Changed In The Last 30 Years” at FiveThirtyEight and explains: “In a December 2018 poll, Gallup found that 66 percent of Americans said it was “extremely” or “very” important that Congress and the White House deal with the issue of gun policy in the following year, which was a significant increase from the 54 percent of Americans who said gun policy was extremely or very important to them in January 2014. However, we still have a while before guns are the most important issue to Americans. In July 2019, only 1 percent said guns were the number-one problem facing the country — barely changed from the 0 percent who said so for most of the 2000s. And while this number does spike in response to mass shootings — it got as high as 7 percent in the six months after Sandy Hook and hit 13 percent after Parkland — so far, it has never stayed at those elevated levels for very long. So while public opinion has swung more toward the side of gun control in recent years, it may not yet be dramatic or consistent enough to force politicians to act.”

McConnell’s Failed “Leadership” Invites Increasing Protests

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat these days, with declining poll numbers, increasingly critical media coverage, including allegations of corruption and hard-hitting billboards (see here, here and here,) in his home state. He has also acquired a disparaging nickname, “Moscow Mitch,” thanks to his Putin-friendly policies.

McConnell gloried in his former nickname, “the Grim Reaper.” But the “Moscow Mitch” moniker seems to have legs, judging by the latest tally of Google hits (58,700,000) the term generates. Indeed, the usually unperturbable McConnell is ticked off about it, according to recent reports.

McConnell’s failed “leadership” history does add up to a disturbing portrait of an out-of-touch politician, whose arrogance and callousness toward anyone outside the shrinking base of Republican voters invites harsh criticism and growing protests. But he may be on the verge of an even steeper deterioration of his image, thanks to his rigid views opposing gun safety reforms in the wake of the three mass shooting during the last 9 days.

For a look at McConnell’s awful record on the issue, check out the blog, “On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue,” a blog affiliated with Snopes, which provides a some of the history of McConnell’s obstruction of gun safety, including:

Voted NO on banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets in 2013.

Opposed the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty in 2013.

Voted YES on allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains in 2009.

Voted YES on prohibiting foreign & UN aid that restricts US gun ownership in 2007.

Voted YES on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers in 2005.

Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence in 2004.

Voted NO on background checks at gun shows in 1999.

Voted YES on loosening license & background checks at gun shows in 1999.

Voted YES on maintaining current law: guns sold without trigger locks in 1998.

But McConnell has probably done even more damage to gun safety prospects with his most damaging   power as majority leader —  killing debate and votes on gun reforms in the Senate. Recently, he  blocked a bill that would prohibit most person-to-person firearm transfers without a background check. The bill passed the House by wide margins. McConnell placed the bills on the Senate calendar, instead of referring the legislation to a committee for action.

Democrats, of course, are hopeful that McConnell can be defeated at the Kentucky polls in 2020, even though KY is a red state. McConnell has a strong opponent in Democrat Amy McGrath. If McConnell survives McGrath’s challenge, however, there are two other ways he can be removed from the majority leadership: 1. Democrats win a Senate majority, and 2. Republicans hold their Senate majority, but suffer such deep national losses across the board that they decide they need a new leadership face. Any one of these three possibilities is a plausible outcome.

Regardless of his re-election prospects, McConnell may now be a significant liability for his party at the national level. As the most well-known Republican after Trump, he will be the “face” of his party if Trump is defeated and he is re-elected. As a GOP politician with high name recognition, he already fills that role to some extent.

In his post, “Mitch McConnell Will Be The Boogeyman Of The 2020 Election,” Kevin Robillard, senior political reporter for HuffPo, notes that a poll of 12 presidential battleground states by the Democratic campaign finance reform group End Citizens United indicates some trouble ahead for the Majority Leader.

After being exposed to messaging about McConnell, the Democratic advantage grew to 12 percentage points. That was more effective than messages about President Donald Trump (6 percentage points) or congressional Republicans overall (9 percentage points)… McConnell’s approval rating among swing-state voters in the survey is just 26%, with 50% viewing him unfavorably. Among independents, just 18% view him favorably, and 58% have a negative opinion. In counties that swung from former President Barack Obama to President Trump, his approval rating is 25%, while 53% have a negative opinion.

Meanwhile Democrats should prioritize support for the “Ditch Mitch” movement, fund his Democratic opponent and crank up the heat on McConnell on all fronts, especially regarding gun safety, which is increasingly viewed as a national security issue.

Political Strategy Notes

It’s all thoughts, prayers and no action for Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans. “As the nation reeled Sunday morning from news of a second mass shooting in the span of 13 hours, Democratic lawmakers began demanding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell take action this week on long-stalled gun control legislation they argue could help prevent the next large-scale tragedy,”  Devan Cole and Caroline Kelly report at CNN Politics. “Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, wrote in a tweet Sunday that she’s “ready to go back tomorrow” to take legislative action. “Inaction is unacceptable. No more talk. The time for passing legislation is now. I’m ready to go back tomorrow…On a state level, just nine states and the District of Columbia ban large-capacity ammunition magazines. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence lists California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont as places with bans that include the sale, possession, and/or manufacture of such magazines. The laws vary from state to state and define the magazines as holding either 10 or 15 rounds.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, another Democratic presidential candidate, was even more explicit: As Tom Boggiani reports at The Raw Story, “We have got to put pressure on Mitch McConnell to start with the background check bill,” he exclaimed…The GOP needs to get their shit together and stop pandering to the NRA,” he added, before going after Trump and Republicans who stand by and say nothing when the president encourages violent white nationalism…“It’s like when the president made the comments about good people on both sides in Charlottesville. how many Republicans really stood up and said what was on their heart? You know, in their heart and minds? Not many, hardly any.” he stated.”

In his NYT column, “The Heartland is Moving in Different Directions,” Thomas B. Edsall observes: “The Democrats’ ability to wrest back Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa faces a steep hurdle. The population of the Rust Belt is aging at a much faster pace than the rest of the country. Exit polls show that people over the age of 50 put Donald Trump in the White House, and the Midwest has them in droves…In five states — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin — the number of 18-to-35-year-olds, the most liberal age group, grew by 56,448 between 2016 and 2018, according to Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings…That growth pales in comparison with the rising number of people 65 and older, a core of Republican support, which grew by 685,005 — an advantage of better than 12 old people for each young person. Nationwide, from 2016 to 2018, 18-to-35-year-olds grew by 677,853 while the 65 and over population grew by 3,207,209 — a smaller advantage of 4.7 old people for each young person, according to Muro…Polls consistently show that older voters are more Republican than younger voters: In 2017, for example, Pew found that 18-to-35-year-olds skewed Democratic 54 percent to 39 percent; voters over 70 were 48 percent Republican and 41 percent Democratic.”

It gets worse, as Edsall explains: “The aging of the Rust Belt population is a major factor in a closely related trend, the declining share of self-identified liberals in the region…Pew Research reports that from 2010 to 2017, the percentage of people who say they are liberals in the Midwest — defined broadly as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas — dropped from 23 to 19 percent, while the percentage describing themselves as conservative fell by a statistically insignificant 1 percent, from 38 to 37 percent. Moderates grew from 33 to 37 percent.”

But Edsall does see some hope for Democrats in that “the growing urbanization of the Midwest, combined with the decline of pro-Republican rural communities…may improve the odds for the Democratic Party and its candidates.” He cites a Brookings study, which found that in the 2018 midterm elections “10 of the 15 districts that flipped from Republican to Democratic in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Iowa “have income growth rates that exceed their state averages…Of the remaining five flipped districts, in which growth was below the state average, three were in Pennsylvania, where Democratic victories resulted from a state Supreme Court decision ordering the replacement of the Republican gerrymander of congressional districts, making those districts much more favorable to Democratic candidates.” Edall concludes, “While the trends and the data are often conflicting and inconclusive, I’d say on balance that the developments are encouraging for Democrats, albeit modestly.”

From “The 2020 Congressional Elections: A Very Early Forecast” by Alan I. Abamowitz at Sabato’s Crysgal Ball: “Barring a dramatic shift in the electoral landscape, Democrats appear very likely to hold onto their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2020 elections and make at least modest gains in the Senate. However, there are significant caveats with both projections. Obviously, one of those is that it is very early and that the president’s approval rating and the generic ballot could very well be different late next summer…In the House, we are in an era with limited ticket-splitting and a weak incumbency advantage. Additionally, the overall House map has a Republican lean: Republicans could win the House back by defeating fewer than two-thirds of the 31 Democrats who hold seats that Trump carried in 2016 (and only three Republicans hold seats that Hillary Clinton carried). The confluence of these factors could allow Republicans to overperform the projection in this model, particularly if Trump is reelected…While the model predicts a good chance of a Democratic majority in the Senate in 2021, that prediction should be taken with considerable caution considering the margin of error of the model and the fact that only a handful of Republican seats that are up next year are in Democratic-leaning or swing states. Moreover, if Democrats do take back the Senate, it will almost certainly be by a very narrow margin, which would make it difficult to pass the sort of progressive legislation advocated by many of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates.”

“Paralyzed by caution, and its worst instincts justified through a gradual takeover by corporate interests, the Democratic Party has in many ways been its own worst enemy,” Branko Marcetic writes in his article, “Corporate Democrats Have Been in the Driver’s Seat for 30 Years. Not Anymore” at In These Times: “Rather than proposing far-reaching redistributive policies, national Democrats have by and large moved to the right while pushing means-tested, tepid proposals meant not to offend corporate backers or scare off mythical “Reagan Democrats.” The result has been a party that’s failed to inspire its core constituency—working-class voters—to show up at the polls.” in the third presidential debate, however, “both Sanders and Warren tied signature policies like Medicare for All, a wealth tax, free tertiary education and student debt cancellation to their broader vision of political change, rebuking Democrats’ three-decade-long strategy of scurrying in fear at the sight of their own shadow. Warren thundered that the Democrats need to be the party “of big, structural change.” Sanders argued that “to win this election and to defeat Donald Trump … we need to have a campaign of energy and excitement and of vision. We need to bring millions of young people into the political process in a way that we have never seen.”

Alex Pareene says it exceptionally well in “The Simple, Odious Reason Mitch McConnell Opposes Election Integrity: The sinister influence on the Senate majority leader is not the Kremlin, but a Republican Party that seeks to keep certain Americans from voting” at The New Republic: “America’s elections are a patchwork of fiefdoms, many run by secretaries of state (many of whom are Republicans), some directly run by state parties themselves. Republicans oppose federal reform of the system because it could deny them the ability to create chaos—chaos that sends the other side’s votes to the wrong polling places, purges thousands or hundreds of thousands from the rolls, and strands urban voters in long lines. Chaos that could create opportunities for—and plausible deniability about—more serious fraud and criminality. Chaos that makes it hard to believe this Senate will ever allow truly secure paper ballot regulations, with strict regular audits, to become a national requirement.”

Just some final thoughts on all of the hand-wringing about Democratic presidential candidates beating up on each other and embracing less than popular reforms. 1. It’s early. Dems must be unified a year from now, but not now. In fact, if they were, it would be weird, maybe even creepy. Let the GOP be the Children of the Corn. 2. A lot of the less popular ideas are being field-tested and the candidates need to be battle-tested before they face Trump, as de Blasio said to Biden in the fourth debate. Sometimes leaders can buck opinion trends for a while enroute to building a new consensus. The presidential candidates will surely tweak their health care proposals in the months ahead, as Harris recently did. Elizabeth Warren, for example, is smart enough to know that she has to make more room for those who want to keep their health insurance policies. American needs a well-argued debate between advocates of Medicare for all and the public option, and that’s exactly what we are getting from Democrats, while Republicans grumble vague put-down on the sidelines. 3. The chaotic big field we see in the debates is actually a good thing because it shows which party has the vitality needed to make major changes. The sky isn’t falling just yet…although the climate crisis could be a game-changer a year from now.