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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Will the GA GOP Boot the State’s Thriving Film Industry to Keep Voter Suppression Legislation?

Boycotts are always tricky, and if they are well-organized and widely-supported, they are usually powerful. Thus, smarter Georgia Republicans must be very nervous about growing talk of boycotts of Georgia-based corporations and a statewide boycott that guts Georgia’s thriving film industry.

In “Will Hollywood Boycott Georgia Over New Voting Law?,” Bryn Sandberg writes at The Hollywood Reporter:

Georgia is facing calls for a potential boycott from Hollywood, this time over a new controversial voting bill that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed March 25.

The new election law — which ushers in more rigid voters restrictions like ID requirements for absentee voting, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food and water to voters in line — has drawn widespread criticism from voting rights groups and Democrats. President Biden dubbed it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” while Stacey Abrams called it “a reminder of Georgia’s dark past.”

It’s also been denounced by many in Hollywood. Some of those outspoken industry figures have even gone as far as to call for a boycott of the state, a movement that’s waxed and waned over the years as other controversial legislation, largely concerning abortion and LGBTQ rights, has come and gone. The impact of a boycott could be significant, though, as Hollywood regularly shoots TV shows and movies in the state and has helped to grow Georgia’s robust film business into the nearly $10 billion industry it is.

Among those in Hollywood most vocal about a boycott is Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold, who tweeted that he would not direct a future film in Georgia due to the new law. (Ford v Ferrarishot some in Georgia.) “Georgia has been using cash to steal movie jobs from other states that allow people to vote. I don’t want to play there,” wrote the director, who is making the upcoming Indiana Jones movie. “The state will be irredeemably red with these new ‘laws.'”

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill seconded Mangold’s call to action, posting a tweet with the hashtag #NoMoreFilminginGeorgia. Production designer François Audouy, who has worked with Mangold on multiple films, also said that he would not design a film in Georgia in the wake of the new voter restrictions.

But while calls for a boycott grow, so do pleas to halt the movement before it gains more steam. “Please stop the #BoycottGeorgia talk,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King wrote on Twitter. “That would hurt middle class workers and people grappling with poverty. And it would increase the harm of both racism and classism.”

Georgia-based actor Steve Coulter, who has appeared in shows like P Valley and Yellowstone, asked Mangold to think twice before boycotting: “James … we here in GA fought like hell the last 4 years to turn it blue. We gave you two Dem Senators. Your boycott only hurts us, the thousands of rank & film actors & crew. Think before you cancel. Please. We’ve worked too hard.”

One on-the-ground Georgia production insider says they feel like the calls for a boycott are much weaker this time around. “It seems like a few years ago, it was a lot louder and the ball got rolling a bit quicker,” says the source, who acknowledges that cast and crew being out of work for so long amid the pandemic might be part of the reason other stars and studios aren’t immediately jumping on the boycott train.

This individual also notes that the local film community is more prepared to fight back against those who urge pulling business, given this isn’t their first rodeo. “There are better and more effective ways of protesting,” the source adds. Others are quick to point out that with Tyler Perry Studios, Georgia is home to the only Black-owned studio in the country.

Abrams, for her part, has condemned the legislation as a “voter suppression bill targeted at Black and brown voters,” but has yet to weigh in on the calls for a boycott. In the past, however, she has advised against them. Amid anti-abortion legislation in 2019, she pennedLos Angeles Times op-ed that said that while she respected the calls for a boycott of the state, “I do not believe it is the most effective, strategic choice for change,” she wrote at the time.

Newly elected Sen. Raphael Warnock harshly criticized the new voter restrictions — but when asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if boycotts should be on the table, he didn’t offer a clear yes or no. “I think we all have to use our voices,” he said, vaguely. “We will see how all of that plays out, but I am focused on what we can do in the United States Senate.”

Calls for a boycott are extending beyond Hollywood, too. Civil rights groups have urged for the Masters Tournament and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game to find new locations amid the bill’s passage. According to The Boston Globe, the head of Major League Baseball’s players’ union said he’d “look forward” to discussing potentially moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta. Georgia-based corporations Coca-Cola and Delta have also come under fire for their stances on the bill.

A similar movement grew in Hollywood two years ago in response to Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion bill, which a federal judge ruled was unconstitutional last year, and a year before that over anti-LGBTQ adoption legislation, which former Governor Nathan Deal vetoed.

Balance the concerns of Georgia’s moderate leaders about a boycott against impressive boycott successes, and it’s a tough call. It would be a shame if thousands of jobs were lost in the state because of a boycott as the price to re-elect Sen. Warnock in 2022, and an even worse shame if he lost anyway. But it would also be a shame if Dems lost Warnock’s seat becase they were too timid to leverage the power of a boycott.

With respect to boycotts in general, there is always an argument to allow legal strategies to be exhausted before going all in on boycotts. The danger is that legal strategy can eat up the clock and have activists scrambling in the final months leading up to the 2022 elections. The reluctance of some Georgia public figures may be a kind of ‘good cop’ response to the ‘bad cop’ activists call for boycotts. But the net effect of increasing both pro and con boycott talk will likely escalate unfavorable publicity for the Georgia’s Republican Party’s political brinksmanship, which is now flirting with economic disaster for the state.

There is also the possibility that the enactment of federal voting rights legislation, including H.R.1, The “For the People Act’ and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act will undo the damage done by the rash of voter suppression laws in the states, including Georgia. But these reforms will depend on Democrats successfuly implementing carefully-constructed filibuster reform, which is also a tricky project.

All available strategic options for progressives in fighting Georgia’s voter suppression laws carry risk. But there is no question that Georgia’s leadership in the film industry gives the state a uniquely powerful card to play if there is a boycott. The hope is that just the threat of a boycott will encourage the state’s Republican leaders to repeal the recently-passed voter suppression legislation, or at least pass a more moderate bill that overrides the new legislation’s worst features.


Teixeira: Joe Biden, Keep on Doing the Voodoo That You Do!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

I’ve got to hand it to Biden. So far, he has kept his eye on the ball and is concentrating on doing the big, popular things that will benefit a wide swathe of the electorate, particularly working class voters of all races. That’s smart and exactly what the Democratic party should stand for. A good article on HuffPost reports on the positive reaction Biden’s moves are getting from Democratic politicians in competitive states and districts.

“Across the country, Democrats are uniformly lining up behind the most essential parts of Biden’s policy program, aggressively trying to sell the already-passed American Rescue Plan ― which sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and which Democrats say will help crush the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools ― with Biden himself embracing a prediction of 6% economic growth at his press conference last week.

They are eagerly anticipating his next legislative proposal, which Biden is expected to lay out in a speech in Pittsburgh this week. Early reports indicate the more than $3 trillion package will contain hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, aid for caregivers, and a package of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations.

Driving this party-wide political bet is a conviction that robust economic liberalism can renew Americans’ faith in their government, give them a political advantage on economic issues and stem continued defections among working-class voters of all races to a GOP almost exclusively focused on culture war issues.

“We’re going to keep building until every American has that peace of mind and to show that our government can fulfill its most essential purpose: to care for and protect the American people,” Biden said Tuesday during an event at Ohio State University in Columbus, with Ryan in attendance. “When we work together, we can do big things, important things, necessary things.”….

“I think people are starting to get confidence in the government again,” [Tim] Ryan [Democratic House representative from the Youngstown area of Ohio] said. “You can already feel a lot of voters saying, ‘I didn’t vote for Biden, but I appreciate what he’s doing.’ And if we keep going down this road, a lot of these people are going to approve of it.”

It’s the hope of Ryan and other Democrats that many of those voters are members of the working class. While Democrats made gains with college-educated voters during the Trump era sufficient to gain total control of the federal government, Republicans’ continued gains among voters without higher education ― including substantial gains among Latino and Hispanic voters in 2020 ― threaten the party’s viability in crucial states and districts. (American politics’ bias toward rural states and regions gives voters without college diplomas disproportionate political power.)….

Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant who has often been critical of the party’s outreach to Latinos, said the coronavirus relief package was more important to winning over Latino voters than any of Biden’s early moves to reverse Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

“The biggest thing Joe Biden did is to secure a better chance at winning more of the Latino vote was to get that bill passed and send everybody checks last week,” Rocha, who worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and now runs Nuestro PAC, told reporters in a briefing this week. “That was a huge deal.”

So far, so good. The legislative politics around the second spending package, which Biden will apparently outline on Wednesday, are quite complicated. But I am encouraged by the level of focus the administration has shown so far and hopeful they will effectively manage this challenge and get something big and important through Congress.

Over the longer term, some course correction is needed on issues where the Democrats are vulnerable (like, ahem, immigration) but for the time being the administration is commendably focused on the moves that will pay the richest dividends for the country and potentially swell the ranks for their working class sympathizers. First things first.


Political Strategy Notes

As a result of Georgia’s new voter suppression laws, “Some have called for Major League Baseball to respond by pulling its all-star game out of Atlanta in July, just as the NBA took the 2017 all-star game out of North Carolina  after that state enacted laws limiting anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community,” Damien Cox writes at The Toronto Star.” According to one estimate the NC boycott costed the state $2.75 billion in lost tourism, special events and conventions. Cox notes also, “With respect to the Masters, the National Black Justice Coalition has already called for a boycott….“Professional golf should not reward Georgia’s attacks on democracy and voting rights with the millions of dollars in revenue that the tournament generates and the prestige it brings to the state,” coalition executive director David Johns said.” Back in 1990 the NFL informed Arizona that, if they wanted to host the 1993 Super Bowl, they had to enact a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., as did nearly all other states. Two years later, the Arizona MLK holiday was enacted, after the state lost substantial tourist revenues as a result of the boycott and Stevie Wonder, the Doobie Brothers and Public Enemy cancelled performances in the state. In 2016 more feature films were produced in Georgia than in any other state. Georgia risks losing billions of dollars if the film industry begins relocating movie and TV shows as a result of protests against its voter suppresion laws. More discussion about the boycott at #BoycottGeorgia twitter feed.

From Terry Canefield’s “Georgia’s ‘Jim Crow’ voter suppression bill is now law. Here’s how Democrats can fight back” at nbcnews.com: “The provisions that make it harder for people to vote and the nonsensical provisions can be overridden by federal legislation. The Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to regulate federal elections: Article I, Section 4 gives it the power to make or alter rules for conducting federal elections. The 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment prevent states from discriminating based on race….Because so many of these restrictive provisions disproportionally affect minority voters, lawsuits are already being filed challenging the law….Georgia already has a well-organized voter support team, Fair Fight, headed by Stacey Abrams. State law allows for the casting of ballots and the tabulation of ballots to be observed by members of both parties. American courts demonstrated in 2020 that, even those with extremely conservative judges, they are not willing to overturn the will of the people in an election. Massive turnout and a clear victory are the best antidotes to attempts to suppress the vote….The Republicans are also on notice: Citizens are not likely to vote for the party that passes mean-spirited and anti-democratic laws. In the words of Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman, the Georgia Republicans may have “just handed Democrats their best turnout tool for 2022 & beyond.” After all, when a party outlaws giving water to voters stuck in long lines, what does it say about their values?”

Regarding statehood for Washington, D.C., Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Older polling has found that at least half of Americans oppose statehood, and that hasn’t really changed much. What is notable, though, is how much question wording can move the numbers — perhaps a sign of how we can expect the two sides to frame this debate….Two recent polls asked straightforward questions about D.C. statehood (some form of “Do you support or oppose granting statehood?”) and found the public pretty evenly divided. Forty-nine percent of Americans told Fortune/SurveyMonkey in mid-January that they favored statehood while 45 percent were opposed. For the pro-statehood movement, this is an improvement from some other nonpartisan polling on the topic in 2020, but only slightly. Further complicating the picture, just last week RMG Researchfound that 35 percent supported statehood compared with 41 percent who opposed it. Hardly what one would call a clear picture of public support. It’s important to note, however, that both pollsters asked a simple yes or no question, meaning there’s little reason to think respondents were primed to answer a certain way.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explores data concerning the polarization of American voters and congress, and notes that “Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford, argues in a series of essays and a book, “Unstable Majorities,” that it is the structure of the two-party system that prevents the center — the moderate majority of American voters — from asserting their dominion over national politics: Given multiple dimensions of political conflict — economic, cultural, international — it is simply impossible for two internally homogeneous parties to represent the variety of viewpoints present in a large heterogeneous democracy ….Inevitably, Fiorina writes, Each party bundles issue positions in a way that conflicts with the views of many citizens — most commonly citizens who are economic conservatives and culturally liberal, or economically liberal and culturally conservative, but also internationalist or isolationist-leaning positions layered on top of other divisions….In Fiorina’s view, polarization has been concentrated among “the political class: officeseekers, party officials, donors, activists, partisan media commentators. These are the people who blabber on TV /vent on Facebook/vilify on Twitter/etc.”….This process effectively leaves out “the general public (a.k.a. normal people)” who are “inattentive, uncertain, ambivalent, uninvolved politically, concerned with bread-and-butter issues.” Edsall reviews data showing agreement on issues among many Republiucan and Democratic voters, but concludes, “The country’s conservative party is wedded to an extreme position — with an astonishing 59 percent of Trump voters convinced as recently as March 5-9 that Joe Biden is not a legitimately elected president, according to a YouGov poll….When one party sinks that far into delusion, cross-party cooperation is ruled out, and the kinds of centrist policies that many voters say they want become an impossibility.”


Political Strategy Notes

David Siders explains “Why this moment for gun politics is different” at Politico: “If fallout from the nation’s two most recent mass shootings runs to form, calls for stricter gun laws on the left will meet resistance from the right. Washington will gridlock, and the media will move on….But the current debate is taking place under an uncommon alignment of the political stars, creating a unique moment in the arc of gun politics. Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since 2011. Public polling reflects widespread support for background checks and other gun measures, while the National Rifle Association — a traditional power in Republican Party politics — has been crippled by financial problems and infighting…..For the gun reform movement — a centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s agenda for at least a quarter century — the question this week has become, if not now, when?….The history of midterm elections suggests Democrats are at risk of losing the House next year, shrinking their window for legislative victories…..“The time is definitely now,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun-control group Giffords. Howcver, Siders adds, “Democrats, of course, lack a filibuster-proof majority. And at least one Senate Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, hails from one of the most pro-gun states in the nation. But even if legislation ultimately fails in Washington, holding a vote on a major gun reform bill could be politically significant ahead of the midterm elections next year. For Democrats, said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster, such legislation “would be, at least to some extent, to get a vote on it and be able to use it in suburban districts” in Colorado and across the country.”

In “The Strongest House Candidates In 2020 Were (Mostly) Moderate,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “It’s not an ironclad rule, but there is a lot of evidence that moderate candidates tend to perform better at the ballot box. And though the relationship may be growing weaker with time, an examination of split-ticket voting in the 2020 election suggests it’s still there….Using data on the results of the presidential election by congressional district from Daily Kos Elections, I calculated how much better — or worse — each candidate for U.S. House did than their party’s presidential nominee. Assuming that President Biden and former President Donald Trump’s vote share represent how a “typical” 2020 Democrat or Republican would have done in each district, this gap gives you a rough measure of candidate quality….the vast majority of House candidates performed about as you’d expect based on presidential partisanship. But when you look at the exceptions — the districts where Democratic House candidates most outperformed Biden, and the districts where Republican candidates most outperformed Trump — the strongest candidates tended to be incumbents with moderate voting records and personal brands that differentiate them from the national reputation of their party….It wasn’t just Democratic moderates who punched above their weight. Middle-of-the-road incumbents also represent many of the districts where Republican House candidates most improved upon Trump’s margins (excluding House seats that Democrats did not contest).”

Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill shares the sobering truth regarding “Why We Can’t Start A Civil War In The Democratic Party” on Lawrence O’Donnell’s ‘The Last Word’ on MSNBC (via Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars}: “”Well, here is what they should start by doing, and that is forcing votes on public policy that is wildly popular in this country, whether it is on gun safety or whether it is minimum wage or the reimportation of prescription drugs,” McCaskill said….”There is a long list of public policy issues that get wide, popular bipartisan support. Tee those up for votes, get those votes first, but let me tell you where it cannot end….Joe Manchin is never going to be beat by a progressive candidate. He’s in a state that Donald Trump won by 40 points. He is an aberration in West Virginia today….”So we only have 50 votes. If Joe Manchin decides to walk to the other side of the aisle, Mitch McConnell is back in charge. We have to win more seats in 2022. So what we can’t do in this process is start a civil war in the Democratic party….”Because if we do, then we see Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and North Carolina all slip from our grasp and we’re in a situation that if something happens with Joe Manchin or if he doesn’t run again, or Jon Testor or any of the other Democrats that are in Republican states, then we’re back with Mitch McConnell calling the shots and we can’t force votes. And so there needs to be a plan here, and it’s not as simple as ‘We can flip Joe Manchin,’ ” she said….”Cause that is a lot harder than you think.”

From “Biden allies eye two-step strategy on infrastructure” by Morgan Chalafant and Alexander Bolton at The Hill: “Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a key ally of President Biden, and several White House advisers want Congress to first move a smaller infrastructure bill in hopes of securing a bipartisan win before trying to address more ambitious goals on climate change and health care in a subsequent measure….Democrats say Biden is eager to get a bipartisan triumph during his first few months in office….“Anything we can do bipartisan is good,” said centrist Sen. Joe Manchin(D-W.Va.), adding that if Biden is talking about breaking up the infrastructure to package to get Republican support, it shows how serious he is about changing the tone in Washington….“If he’s talking like that — I think he’s sincere in that,” Manchin said….There’s long been bipartisan support in Washington for overhauling the nation’s traditional infrastructure system: roads, bridges, rail lines and waterworks….The Senate and House passed by overwhelming margins a $305 billion five-year highway bill in 2015. The sticking point in recent years has been finding a way to pay for infrastructure spending. The White House is mulling raising tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for at least part of its infrastructure bill….But Biden also wants to use his infrastructure agenda to combat global warming, expand access to community colleges and prekindergarten programs, establish a national paid-leave program, modernize schools and weatherize private and public housing.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “How Democrats can use Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief to win the midterms,” in The Guardian, Joan E. Grever writes that “the passage of the relief bill may also be the Democratic party’s best chance of keeping control of both chambers of Congress after next year’s midterm elections. Democrats are hoping that the aid it brings can help them avoid the historical trend of the president’s party losing congressional seats in the midterms following his election….There is little room for error too, given Democrats’ narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress. Republicans need to flip just five seats to take control of the House, and a loss of a single Senate seat would cost Democrats their majority in the upper chamber. Such losses would seriously hobble Biden’s ability to enact his agenda….Democratic groups are helping with Biden’s victory tour, flooding the airwaves to remind voters in battleground states where those $1,400 direct payments came from. American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive political action committee, has announced a six-figure ad buy focusing on the impact of the relief package. The first ad, which featured a special education teacher talking about how the legislation would help schools reopen, started airing in Pennsylvania as Biden visited the state on Tuesday. “This is a law that is going to help people’s lives across the board, and something that is this holistically comprehensive on the policy side is also going to be holistically popular for the midterms,” said Jessica Floyd, the president of American Bridge….competing messaging campaigns from the two parties represent the start of a months-long competition to define the beginning of Biden’s presidency in the court of public opinion. The winner of that competition will probably walk away with control of Congress. “Part of our job is not to let people forget that Democrats put together a bill that is hugely popular now,” Floyd said. “Our job is to keep it popular and also point out for the coming months that every single Republican in Congress voted against it. I think keeping both of those facts top of mind starts today.”

Can Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Bill Help Democrats Avoid A Midterm Defeat?” Alex Samuels responds at FiveThirtyEight: “Successfully running on a strong economy in 2022 with voters penalizing the Republicans who voted against sending relief to millions of Americans. But they also raise questions of how much stock we should be putting into Republican support of the bill, given the inroads the party has made with lower income voters and those without a college degree in recent presidential elections. In particular, how can Democrats win back whitevoters who fall into this camp?….The answer is, of course, complicated. But Biden and Democrats’ calculus, so far, seems to be pushing New Deal-esque policies and an economic message that aims to resonate with more working- and middle-class voters. And according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the relief package is expected to benefit low- and middle-income households the most. They found households making $91,000 or less would receive 70 percent of the tax benefits from the plan. This stands in stark contrast to the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under former President Donald Trump, where nearly half of the cuts went to households in the top 5 percent….the potential effects of the bill can’t be overstated: If the relief package is able to kickstart the economy and help lower-income voters financially, Biden and other Democrats might be able to reap the electoral benefits of this bill — perhaps even avoiding the “shellacking” that the president’s party typically sees in midterm elections.”

In “The real causes of the border crisis — and the real remedies,” The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman shares a couple of ideas for how the Biden Administration could address the crisis on the soutbhern border: “There are alternative remedies, such as letting more foreigners in through authorized channels….Today, the worldwide backlog of applications for green cards is at 5 million. Many recipients have to wait 10 years or more to be admitted. Cato Institute analysts David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh reach this startling conclusion: “At no time in American history has immigration been as legally restricted as it is currently.”….For the moment, the Biden administration has the task of coping with the border crisis while dismantling the inhumane practices of its predecessor. In the longer term, it could relieve pressure on the border by increasing refugee admissions and allotting more slots to the Central American countries that have produced so many migrants….It could create a program for guest workers from Mexico and Central America, as proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden has already moved to restore the Central American Minors Program to provide “a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the risks incurred in the attempt to migrate to the United States irregularly.”….Giving people an avenue to come here legally in order to keep them from coming illegally? A crazy idea, but it just might work.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook observes, “One of the most intriguing questions going into next year’s Senate races is which party will be playing offense and which will be content to defend. History argues that Democrats will be on defense and Republicans on offense; exposure argues the opposite way, that Republicans will play defense while Democrats look to pick off seats….But it is also important to separate first-term midterm elections from those in a second term. While the difference in the House is negligible, (23 losses for the former and 20 seats for the latter), in the Senate it is massive. The first-term average loss by a president’s party is only one seat; in second-term midterms, that average swells to seven seats—a distinction with a real difference….Let’s put history aside for a moment and look at exposure, or how many seats a party must defend. The GOP has 20 seats up to just 14 for Democrats—numbers which make the case that Republicans may end up on defense. Worse yet for Republicans, five of those 20 seats are open, whereas thus far Democrats have zero open seats to worry about. Over the last 20 years, 86 percent of Senate incumbents seeking reelection have won. Incumbents’ worst year since 2000 was a 78 percent win rate; the best, 91 percent. So you’d much rather defend a seat that’s occupied than one that’s not.”


Political Strategy Notes

In Other Polling Bites, Laura Bronner notes at FiveThirtyEight: “Several polls this week have found widespread support for Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package: 70 percent of Americans overall, according to Pew, with particularly strong support among low-income Americans (82 percent). In fact, while Democrats of all income groups were very supportive of the package, a majority of low-income Republicans (63 percent) were in favor, too. The Economist/YouGovfound 64 percent supported the bill overall, Data for Progress found 69 percent in support, and Morning Consult/Politico, which listed the bill’s major provisions in the question, found 75 percent in support. (Both The Economist/YouGov and Data for Progress also found broad support across the bill’s individual provisions.)”

Adam Serwer writes at The Atlantic: “Biden’s rescue bill uses the state as an instrument of broad prosperity rather than as one of vengeance—according to an analysis from the Urban Institute, the legislation could cut the poverty rate by more than a third. In the process, it stands to address the economic distresses that Trump exploited and the grievances he inflamed. And by making the bill’s benefits so broad, Democrats may also make them enduring, insulating them from future efforts to repeal them….Economists also believe that the bill—more than twice the size of the Obama-era stimulus designed to pull America out of the Great Recession—is large enough to deliver a robust recovery, rather than the halting one that followed the 2008 crisis….“Nobody thinks that there’s anything to be gained from bipartisanship politically anymore. There are a few people who still think that it’s really important in itself,” Adam Jentleson, once the deputy chief of staff to the former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid and the author of Kill Switch, told me. “But even those people have a hard time arguing that it’s more important than actually delivering results.”….The American Rescue Plan Act is an important economic measure; it is also a down payment on a future in which the stakes for American democracy are less existential. But it is only a down payment—one that will be forfeit if Democrats allow the rest of their agenda to be held hostage in the Senate. More than just legislation, it is  a leap of faith that Americans of all political backgrounds will reward a party that seeks to make their lives better, rather than one that simply manufactures new targets for scorn. In that, the measure expresses a greater confidence in the decency of the Republican base than Trump or his acolytes ever displayed.”

Also at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein warns, “Advocates want more attention on the state laws to discourage Republican legislators and governors from passing them. But they also recognize that, as in the Selma era, greater awareness of state restrictions could build support for national action—and particularly for H.R. 1, the sweeping democracy-reform bill the House passed earlier this month. More public awareness, the theory goes, will raise Senate Democrats’ comfort level about establishing a nationwide standard for voting rights through their own version of H.R. 1, even if that requires curtailing the filibuster to overcome lockstep Republican opposition. In an appearance on MSNBC this week, Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s lead election lawyer, literally pleaded for more attention: “I am begging America and the media to pay attention to this. Right now, we are facing an avalanche of voter suppression” that the country hasn’t seen in decades.” Brownstein warns, “The administration and civil-rights groups don’t have much time to generate more national attention. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa has already signed legislation limiting early voting and reducing the hours that polls can stay open on Election Day. Bills in other states are swiftly moving forward. Elias says Democratic lawyers’ success in beating Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the election may be making Democrats complacent about their ability to block these new restrictions if they are approved. “We will do the best we can in court,” he told me, “but I almost worry that people look at the success that some of us had last cycle” and expect the same success now. “I am here to tell you that we can’t assume the courts are going to solve every political ill.”

When it comes to messaging, it really does help the Biden Administrtion to have an alert press secretary who is on game, as Jen Pasaki demonstrates in  this exchange, flagged by Aldous J. Pennyfarthing in “Jen Psaki takes on GOP’s pearl-clutching over deficits, reminds them their concern is years late” at Daily Kos:

“REPORTER: “No Republican voted for the COVID relief package, and they argue that this is the sixth package and it adds to a deficit that’s already a trillion dollars this year alone. What do you say to that criticism, that ultimately this type of a sweeping piece of legislation will be a drag on the economy down the line?”

PSAKI: “Well, I would say to them we’re in the midst of twin crises, from the pandemic to an economic downturn that is impacting tens of millions of people in this country. People are struggling to make ends meet. They are worried about whether their grandparents, their cousins, their friends are able to get a vaccine, and they are suffering because they’re worried about the mental health of their kids, who aren’t back in school yet. And the president’s focus is on addressing those crises. And I would point, send a question back to many of these Republicans as to why the deficit spending wasn’t as concerning when they were giving tax cuts to the highest incomes, but now it’s concerning when we’re giving direct checks and relief to the American people.”


Walsh: Biden’s American Rescue Plan Victory Helps Unify Democrats

In “Democrats Make a Down Payment on a Radically More Just Economy” in The Nation, Joan Walsh writes of Biden’s Pandemic relief/stimulus legislative victory that “the many forces behind this stunning achievement are beyond my capacity to list here—and they represent a leftward migration of the Democratic Party that was a long time in the making but that accelerated in the past 10 years. Biden has been in the middle of it.” Walsh explains further,

It’s not a social democratic party, at least not yet. But it has steadily gotten more committed to using government to lessen suffering and promote equitable growth, and less afraid of GOP taunting about deficits and “dependency.” It had mostly moved past the neoliberal fetishization of markets, long before the pandemic: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 platform was more progressive than Obama’s, with a more robust role for government; four years later, Biden’s was more progressive than Clinton’s. (That partly reflected the influence of Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran a strong second in the Democratic presidential primaries to both of them.)

The pandemic accelerated the leftward surge of many, even most Democrats. The mismanaged plague that has in a year killed 530,000 Americans also destroyed Reagan’s tired maxim, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”—hopefully for good. Last year’s first Covid relief bill, the $2.2 trillion America Cares Act—passed under the uncaring, incompetent Donald Trump—kept 13 million people out of poverty; when its benefits began to evaporate, especially its extended unemployment relief, people felt the difference, and the pain. That’s why Biden’s plan is supported by roughly three-quarters of Americans in the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll: Americans know government is the solution, at the very least to this deadly pandemic.

Walsh adds, “What’s most important about the Biden plan is not its size but the thinking behind it. For one thing, it rejected old notions about government support as a morally hazardous “handout” to the undeserving that would discourage work. Welfare reform essentially punished poor children for the (supposed) wrongdoing of their parents (mostly single mothers) and, especially, their joblessness.” In addition,

By contrast, the expanded child tax credits are more like Social Security, a recognition that government has a role to play in caring for those who can’t care for themselves, not just the elderly but children as well. It isn’t conditioned on whether parents, especially mothers, work or stay home, which was formerly a culture-wars obsession. Likewise, expanded unemployment insurance passed (though it was trimmed slightly), despite arguments that it could make not working more alluring than working. Most wealthy developed nations offer support like this…..The bill supports small businesses and restaurants, child care providers and union members on the verge of losing their pensions. It invests billions in Black farmers and Native Americans, funding that’s long overdue but especially needed in this pandemic. It also pumps billions into state and local government: That’s another learning from early Obama efforts to stem the bleeding in 2009: As the federal government sent money into the economy, budget-crunched local and state officials were laying off workers and thus taking money out of it….It significantly shores up the Affordable Care Act, weakened by Trump, including more subsidies for more people, and not just the poor. But back to the poor: It reduces child poverty by more than half; poverty for all Americans, according to the Urban Institute, by almost 40 percent.

Walsh credits progressive Democrats for fighting for their policy reforms, but not walking away from supporting the Covid relief package when they didn’t get their way on everything: “I want to hail the members of the Progressive Caucus,” and she adds,

They had major problems with the Senate bill—it stripped the House version of the $15-an-hour minimum wage, reduced unemployment benefits slightly, and (even as single mom and progressive powerhouse Katie Porter railed against it) left inequity between single parents and married parents intact—but they kept their eyes on the prize. Most people, myself included, assumed Biden and the Democrats went into this negotiation with a $1.9 trillion plan in order to cut it by at least a quarter. They did not. Progressives knew what this bill achieved.

Progressive Caucus whip Representative Ro Khanna hit the cable shows almost immediately after the Senate bill passed, promoting it. Bernie Sanders praised it too, tweeting after its passage on Wednesday: “What a difference it makes when government is on the side of working people.” An elated Representative Pramila Jayapal, Progressive Caucus chair, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Republicans made “a very big tactical mistake” in providing zero support for the relief package. “They’re going to have to try to explain why they voted ‘no’ on a package that puts money in people’s pockets.” On Wednesday afternoon, at a signing ceremony for the bill convened with Pelosi, Schumer effusively thanked Sanders. As well he should have.

The left, right and centrist flanks in the Democratic Party will continue to have major policy differences, heated debates and the occasional circular firing squad — It’s how we roll in the big tent. But we can hope that Democratic Party unity – and clarity – has been enhanced under Biden’s impressive leadership, with pivotal support from progressive leaders like Khanna, Porter, Jayapal and Sanders, as well as Pelosi and Schumer. It’s a good look. Here’s hoping it sticks.


Political Strategy Notes

The Biden Administration is savoring one of the most significant legislative victories any president has achieved since the Johnson Administration. In his article, “Good job, Biden. Now comes the hard part” at The week, David Faris writes, “President Biden and his Democratic allies are riding high after Congress passed the expansive COVID-19 relief and stimulus package on Wednesday. And they deserve to take a victory lap, because the American Rescue Plan promises to ignite a broad economic recovery and realizes long-sought progressive goals like direct cash payments to parents….Despite the bill’s messy and divisive denouement in the Senate, and the failure to include a minimum wage hike, the stimulus package should be seen as the cherry on top of a hugely successful first seven weeks in office for Biden. It is also, however, likely the end of the easy wins for Democrats and the start of a much more challenging period of steering legislation through a closely divided Congress.” Regarding filibuster reform, Faris adds, “President Biden himself has remained maddeningly coy on the subject. Given the speed with which he plowed ahead with the stimulus package without any Republican support, it’s safe to assume that despite his campaign theme of unity and bipartisanship, he is under no illusions about the prospect of Republican buy-in for other priorities like voting rights.”

Faris notes Biden’s other accomplishments: “In addition to the relief bill, the president used the Defense Production Act to turbocharge COVID-19 vaccine production and signed a flurry of Executive Orders, effectively vaporizing former President Trump’s policy legacy by, among other things, reversing the controversial travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, halting construction of the border wall, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project, and lifting the immigration restrictions imposed under the cover of COVID….With a few effortless strokes of a pen, President Biden was able to wipe away pretty much everything Trump did except the 2019 tax cuts and the far right’s successful takeover of the federal judiciary…But these victories also mark the end of the new president’s honeymoon period. The low hanging fruit has been plucked, eaten, and juiced. The harder work begins today, and the president must soon make some more difficult choices. He will never be more popular, and Democrats have more leverage today than they will for the rest of this congressional term. House Democrats and nearly all of the party’s Senate caucus are on board with an aggressive agenda, including shoring up voting rights and democracy with the newly-passed For the People Act (H.R. 1), granting statehood to Washington, D.C., and possibly Puerto Rico, raising the minimum wage, reinvesting in America’s decaying infrastructure, reforming immigration rules, and following through on the president’s campaign promise of adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act’s health-care framework.” All in all, a pretty remarkable tally of accomplishments for the first six weeks of  Biden’s Administration and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Democrats did a great job of passing the Covid relief and stimulus package. But Dems need to do a better job of the “aftersale” than was done after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. They must explain to the public the legislation’s impressive benefits for working people, the poor and children, as well as everyone concerned about the pandemic. It appears that impeachment 2.0 and even the Republican riot in the capitol did not distract Democrats from getting the pandemic relief and stimulus legislation passed. Biden deserves lots of credit for keeping his eyes o the prize, and not getting suckered into the weeds. But now Dems should get focused on making sure the public knows all the ways this egislation is good for America. As Greg Sargent explains at The Plum Line, “Though public support for the package is overwhelming, events will intervene and voters will forget a good deal about what just happened, even as they benefit from its provisions. So Democrats must be relentless in telling them what’s in it and in highlighting how it’s improved their lives.” Sargent repoprts that the White House is gearing up to meet this challenge. But follow-through by all Dems is everything. Let it be a rare exercize in Democratic message discipline for the next few weeks and again in the closing weeks of the 2022 election. Democrats can not count on the media to do justice to the relief package. It will be quickly forgotten, otherwise. The public has a short memory and no Dems should expect automatic gratitude.

At The American Prospect, co-editor Robert Kuttner does a good job of putting this historic legislative achievement in perspective in his editorial “A Stunning Day.”

“Something extraordinary happened today which is worth celebrating—the most far-reaching expansion of government help to children and families since FDR.

A year ago, a universal basic income was a radical fringe idea. Well, we’ve just enacted it for families with children. And once in place, this will prove almost impossible to dislodge.

Imagine the politics next fall when Democrats propose making the child tax credit permanent, and Republicans propose a massive tax increase on American families. My sources say Biden is committed to making this policy permanent.

Consider the arithmetic. A family with two parents and three kids will be getting about $14,000 a year. It just happens that this is almost identical to what a minimum-wage job pays if you work full-time ($7.25 an hour times 2,000 hours).

This is revolutionary, and will compel employers to pay a great deal more to get workers.

Think of what it took to make this transformative social policy mainstream. It took a pandemic. It took the improbable Democratic victories in Georgia to get 50 Senate votes. It took rare Democratic unity. And it took the radicalization of one Joe Biden.

Even more remarkably, while the two previous transformative Democratic presidents, LBJ and FDR, had huge Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, Biden has done it with fumes.

Sometimes, things break right. It’s a day to celebrate.”


Political Strategy Notes

At nbcnews.com, Ben Kamisar reports, “Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a crucial swing-vote in the Senate Democrats’ slim majority, said Sunday that he won’t bend in his support for the filibuster, a Senate rule that forces most legislation to require bipartisan support to pass….But he added that he would be open to Democrats passing more important legislation like voting reforms by a party-line vote — if senators are given ample space for bipartisan negotiation first.” Mancin added that “he was “willing to look at” ideas to make the filibuster “a little bit more painful,” like requiring lawmakers to take to the floor for marathon speeches if they wanted to use the procedure.” That would surely reduce the frequency of filibusters overall. Equally intriguing, Mancin suggested the possibility of expanding the reconciliation process to include voting rights: “There’s no need for us to go to reconciliation until the other process has failed. That means the normal process of a committee, a hearing, amendments,” he said when asked about whether reconciliation could be used to pass voting reforms in the future.”

In “Joe Manchin opens the door to filibuster reform” at Vox, Cameron Peters adds, “Obviously, Manchin’s comments Sunday aren’t a definite commitment to do something about the filibuster — but they’re still extremely good news for Democrats, who appear as if they will soon face a string of futile fights to win over 10 Republican votes for priorities like voting rights and a minimum wage increase….Specifically, Manchin’s change in tone, though slight, comes as Senate Democrats prepare for a fight over a voting rights package recently passed by the House of Representatives, and as high-profile party leaders begin to get behind ditching the filibuster….On Meet the Press Sunday, Manchin indicated some willingness to consider that first option, in addition to a talking filibuster, telling Todd he might be open “to a reconciliation” style approach for passing bills if Democrats are met with repeated refusals from Manchin’s “Republican friends” to work together.”

‘Blue Tuesday’ notes further at Daily Kos: “Shifting a 60-vote threshold to a talking filibuster is essentially ending the filibuster in all but name only. It means debate will have to end. And as we know, Republicans have no real interest in putting in any effort — Ron Johnson forced Senate clerks to read the American Rescue Plan on Thursday night and didn’t even stay for most of it, while Ted Cruz, as you’ll recall, literally ran away to Mexico to avoid helping his constituents in Texas when the state’s energy grid was disabled amid a massive and unexpected winter storm….It wasn’t a slip-up, either: Manchin said something similar on Fox News Sunday….“Maybe it needs to be more painful,”  @Sen_JoeManchin says of the filibuster. “It should be painful to use it,” he adds to Chris Wallace, while also re-upping his strong support for keeping it in place.”….If Manchin is willing to budge on this, Kyrsten Sinema — who got just pilloried for the way she voted “no” on the minimum wage on Friday — must not be far behind….Simply put, if Democrats don’t kill the filibuster, it’ll kill their chances to be a national political party. Gerrymandering and voter suppression will kill them in swing states and come 2030, Republicans will control those states with such an iron fist, they’ll go ahead and eliminate any nascent Democratic movement with more redistricting and voter suppression.”

Meanwhile, Donald Judd and Devan Cole report that “Biden signs executive order expanding voting access” at CNN Politics: “President Joe Biden signed an executive order Sunday expanding voting access in what the White House calls “an initial step” in its efforts to “protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process.”….The move comes as Republicans in statehouses around the country work to advance voter suppression legislation, including a bill in Georgia that voting rights groups say targets Black voters. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed measures in recent days to increase voting rights, including HR1 — a sweeping ethics and election package that contains provisions expanding early and mail-in voting, restoring voting rights to former felons, and easing voter registration for eligible Americans….Sunday’s order directs the heads of all federal agencies to submit proposals for their respective agencies to promote voter registration and participation within 200 days, while assisting states in voter registration under the National Voter Registration Act. In addition, the order instructs the General Services Administration to modernize the federal government’s Vote.gov portal….The executive order also expands voter access and registration efforts for communities often overlooked in outreach, including the disabled, military serving overseas and the incarcerated.”


When Will This Hyper-Partisan Era End?

Millions are wondering “How Much Longer Can This Era Of Political Gridlock Last?,” and FiveThirtyEight’s Lee Drutman takes a stab at providing a believable answer. Drutman provides some data-driven analysis and some cool charts and concludes in effect, that it looks like it could be a long time. Or as Drutman puts it more compellingly in one paragraph, after noting the thin margins Dems now have in both the Senate and House,

That means more divided government is probably imminent, and the electoral pattern we’ve become all too familiar with — a pendulum swinging back and forth between unified control of government and divided government — is doomed to repeat, with increasingly dangerous consequences for our democracy.

No doubt, many already came to that conclusion. But Drutman adds,

“This current period of partisan stalemate stands out in a few respects when we consider America’s long history with partisan conflict. For starters, the period we find ourselves in now is unique in that the national partisan balance of power is extremelyclose (with control of national government up for grabs in almost every cycle), even as most states and most voters are either solidly Democratic or Republican. What’s more, the national outcome often hinges on just a few swing states and districts. This period is also unique in the extent to which America is divided.”

There are other reasons to be skeptical about history-rooted analysis of the current political moment. Trump’s unique lunacy, McConnell’s shameless propensity for putting his personal power before what is good for America, the number of politicians of one party denying the results of certified elections and the homicidal attack on congress are all without historical parellel in U.S. history.

However, if you had to bet the ranch on political gridlock ending fairly soon or not, Drutman’s analysis lends credibility to the latter scenario.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for a warrior to emerge from the smoke, put on the blue face-paint, mount the noble steed and lead the masses to a landslide, filibuster-proof Democratic victory. Not gonna happen any time soon — although four years can be a hell of a long time in U.S. politics, especially in the wake of an exhausting plague.

But, is it really so unrealistic to hope that some kind of militant centrist comes along, articulates an inspiring vision of bipartisanship with a credible mix of progressive policies to win broad support from the war-weary rank and file of both parties and breaks the stalemate? It would be long-overdue.