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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Mark Green: The Winning Message Waiting for Dems

Some excerpts from “The Democrats Have a Winning Message: “Stop Dangerous Extremists”: Forty reasons the GOP is “a clear and present danger to American democracy” by Mark Green at The Nation:

“Trump and his allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”—the Honorable J. Michael Luttig….Speaking slowly but powerfully, Judge Michael Luttig last week may have handed Democrats what has so far eluded them: a winning message for the midterm elections. Given all the revelations to date from the January 6 hearings—as well as five-plus years of Republican malevolence—Democrats can campaign this fall against a GOP full of “dangerous extremists” and run by “dangerous extremists.”

….The best response to persistent misdirection, however, is to repeat a memorable message sustained by a mass of evidence that brands today’s Republican Party as the most extreme in our modern history…..To get there, voters need to visualize and understand what happens when violence-prone reactionary authoritarians replace democracy with despotism. An America run by Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene means no Obamacare, shrunken and corporatized Social Security, lower real income for average workers, even more school shootings, rising attacks on LGBTQ and Asian Americans, appeasement of Putin, plus emboldened armed militias like the Proud Boys threatening—or actually killing—local election officials….

So while the Biden White House will presumably be pushing its positive accomplishments, Democrats need to simultaneously begin assailing the “clear and present danger” of the Republican Party as the only negative message that can work—especially as likely indictments of the Trump cabal and more instances of right-wing violence occur….Running against “dangerous extremists” can tie together the news about January 6, the likely reversal of Roe, Republicans calling homosexuality an “unacceptable lifestyle choice” while suggesting secession at the Texas GOP convention, and the MAGA mob assaults on Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss….It can become in 2022 what the “Do-Nothing-Congress” was in 1948—a political hammer that galvanized voters and turned Harry Truman from a sure loser into a surprise winner.”

For some well-stated message points, comb Green’s 40 reasons to illustrate the GOP’s “clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Pfeiffer: It’s the Megaphone, Not the Message

So, “Why Do Democrats Suck at messaging?” Dan Pfeiffer, former communications director for President Obama and author of “Battling the Big Lie,” shares some thoughts on the topic at Vanity Fair, including:

“Pundits and the political press are constantly haranguing Democrats for their messaging mistakes. One liberal writer of several well-reviewed presidential histories called me often during Obama’s first term to lecture me on why Obama didn’t yet have a version of FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society. The subtext of these conversations was that great slogans make great presidents. Much of Progressive Twitter is filled with lamentations about some failure or missed messaging opportunity. There was a running joke in the Obama White House that you needed a master’s in economics to discuss economic policy and a doctorate in public health to offer health care ideas, but everyone believed that reading the newspaper made them qualified to opine on messaging strategy.

….A series of focus groups conducted in the first few months of the Biden presidency found that voters were unable to identify what the Democratic Party stood for. Two electoral landslide victories for Obama, a huge popular-vote win for President Biden, and four years of resistance to  Trump—and the Democrats still have a brand problem. This is more than a failure by party leaders and activists to settle on a narrative.

…How does one compose a pithy slogan or a tweet-length narrative to accurately and appealingly describe a coalition so broad that it extends from Joe Manchin to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? It’s the difference between being asked to come up with a brand for one television network like HBO or ESPN and being asked to brand “television” more broadly. What compelling slogan would be inclusive of every channel, from Bravo to CNBC?

Frankly, the messaging and branding task is more challenging for Democrats than it is for Republicans. The geographic disparities in the Senate and the Electoral College mean that Democrats must turn out liberal-base voters and appeal to voters much more conservative than the median Democratic voter. Democrats have to sell a wider array of products to a wider array of people.

The Republican coalition is narrower. It’s more ideologically homogenous and as white as a field of lilies. The Electoral College is biased toward Republican states, and the Senate gives small rural states like Wyoming the same number of votes as California and New York. To succeed, Republicans need only appeal to their base and little else, which allows for a simpler message.

However, Pfeiffer notes, “For all the party’s messaging mishaps, there are some facts running counter to the prevailing narrative that Republicans are messaging maestros. First, Democrats have won the popular vote in all but one presidential election since 1988. Second, the Democratic Party’s approval rating, while nothing to write home about, has been consistently higher than the Republican Party’s for many years. Finally, the Democratic position on immigration, taxes, reproductive freedom, minimum wage, civil rights, voting rights, and climate change is more popular than the Republican position.” Further,

These facts help explain why Republicans and their billionaire supporters invest so much time and energy in building a disinformation apparatus that can overcome the opinions of the majority of Americans. Hence, the megaphone problem…..Democratic messaging is not perfect; far from it. It’s often too wonky and wordy, an Ezra Klein column distilled into a paragraph of focus-grouped verbal applesauce. Our party leaders are all over 70, and none of them rose to the pinnacle of party leadership based on their communication chops. They are generationally disconnected from the party’s base, but the problem isn’t their age. It’s that each has spent more than half their years serving in Congress, where authentic human speaking goes to die.

Noting that “Democrats spend 99% of their time worrying about what they should say and only 1% figuring out how to get people to hear what they are sayin,” Pfeiffer adds,

The Republicans have a cable television network whose sole raison d’être is to attack Democrats and promote pro-GOP talking points. The conservative media dwarfs the progressive media in size and scope. And even then, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The bulk of the media on the right is an adjunct of the party apparatus; during the Trump presidency it was state-adjacent propaganda—Pravda, but with plausible deniability…..Facebook, the biggest, most important media outlet in the world, aggressively promotes conservative content. Democrats are out-gunned. We have fewer outlets with less reach. What we say is being drowned out. Sure, we need a better message, but first we need to get a bigger megaphone….Democrats have a much smaller megaphone, and our message is getting drowned out.

Republicans dictate the terms of the conversation in American politics and have done so for much of the 21st century. Democrats aren’t doing everything right, but we also must recognize that doing everything right is still insufficient. Until more Democrats figure this out, we will remain trapped in the doom loop. During every campaign cycle, our strategy is defense.

The better question, says Pfeiffer, is “So, how do we build a bigger, better megaphone?”

Teixeira: Dems, Focus More on Persuadable Voters, Not ‘Turnout’

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

Will Higher Turnout Fix the Democrats’ Problems?

Nope, not this election. And not future ones either. I explain in my latest at The Liberal Patriot:

“Turnout myths die hard. In fact they don’t seem to die at all.

That is particularly the case in Democratic circles. You don’t have to talk to a typical Democrat for any length of time before they evince their touching faith in the wonder-working powers of high voter turnout. Interrogate them a little further and it turns out what they really mean is that the stark choices presented to the electorate by Democrats’ progressive policies and Republicans’ reactionary ones will, if presented forcefully enough, produce massive turnout by Democratic-leaning constituencies (nonwhites, young voters, etc) that will neutralize Republican advantages.

We can see the latest example of this in how many Democrats are approaching the 2022 elections. The giant hole the Democrats are now in is hard to deny. Biden’s approval rating, a key indicator of midterm outcomes, is now below 40 percent in the 538 rolling average and below where Trump’s was at this point in the 2018 cycle. Republicans are comfortably ahead on the generic Congressional ballot, which typically underestimates their chances and augurs a big election for them. Gallup just released a comprehensive historical review of midterm indicators (Presidential and Congressional approval, satisfaction with the direction of the country, views on economic conditions) which shows the Democrats’ current situation to be exceptionally grim.

Democrats’ approach to digging out of this hole relies heavily on turnout. Either implicitly or explicitly, Democrats think of issues like abortion, guns, “MAGA Republicans” and, of course, January 6th mostly as ways of motivating their base to turn out at higher levels in the current dismal political environment….

There are, however, a number of reasons why this turnout fix is highly unlikely to work and, in fact, borders on the delusional.

1. Some Simple Math. Start with this: when Democrats persuade a voter to switch sides, that nets two votes for the Democrats (one less for the Republicans, one more for the Democrats). When Democrats turn out one more voter to vote Democratic that is, of course, a net of only one vote for them.

But it’s really worse than that. Typically, Democrats think of increased base turnout in terms of turning out more voters from various pro-Democratic demographic groups—young voters, black voters, Hispanic voters, college-educated whites, whatever. But not all the voters in these groups favor the Democrats so mobilization of more voters from a given group may well net less than one vote per additional voter. For example, looking at current Congressional ballot preferences, Democrats might net only a third of a vote for every additional Hispanic or young voter, six-tenths of a vote from every additional black voter and just a sixth of a vote from every additional college-educated white voter.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

A Longer Term Strategy Tip for Dems From SD and Other Red States

It’s a frustrating quest, looking for hints of hope for Democrats because the media is rife with downer articles and perspectives regarding the Democrats’ future. Bear in mind, however, that a lot of media coverage of politics is rooted in me-tooism, wolfpack and lazy journalism. True, all the credible data is pretty tough for Dems right now, but here and there we can find small bits of encouragement, some that shine a light on possible paths forward.

One such article, Jon Skolnik’s “South Dakota voters overwhelmingly reject amendment that would make it harder to expand Medicaid: The amendment would have required support from 60% voters, instead of a simple majority, to expand to program” at Salon, illuminates a possible strategy for Democrats beyond the midterm elections. Some excerpts:

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly shut down a measure that would have made it a requirement for ballot proposals, like expanding Medicaid, to garner support from 60% of the state’s electorate as opposed to a simple majority.

The Republican-backed measure, dubbed “Constitutional Amendment C,” was defeated by a two-to-one margin. It comes ahead of a Democratic-led state referendum to expand Medicaid coverage for the state’s residents, as Forbes notes.

Yes, that South Dakota, one of the most conservative states in the midwest. There’s more:

According to MSNBC, South Dakota is one of twelve states that have recently refused to expand Medicaid. But The Washington Post reports that it has the highest chance of passing the provision out of any of them. The move would provide roughly health coverage to roughly 42,000 South Dakotans.

“Today, the people of South Dakota have preserved their right to use direct democracy,” Kelly Hall, executive director of The Fairness Project, said, according to Forbes. “This victory will benefit tens of thousands of South Dakotans who will choose to use the ballot measure process to increase access to health care for their families and neighbors, raise wages, and more policies that improve lives,” she added. “We look forward to what’s next in South Dakota: an aggressive campaign to expand Medicaid in the state.”

And it’s not just one conservative state. As Skolnik reports:

South Dakota would not be the first state to bypass its GOP-led legislature or Republican governor on the issue of health insurance. Back in 2018, voters in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid’s coverage. And in 2017, Maine did just the same thing.

Several polls show that voters in states with GOP governors and Republican-led legislatures support Medicaid. Just this February, for instance, a poll revealed that seven out of ten voters in Alabama support the program’s expansion. Another poll from 2021 found that 54% of the Florida electorate feels the same.

Last year, the Biden administration provided states with added incentives to expand Medicaid as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which allowed states to benefit from a revamped federal matching program.

“In addition to the 90% federal matching funds available under the [Affordable Care Act] for the expansion population, states also can receive a 5 percentage point increase in their regular federal matching rate for 2 years after expansion takes effect,” the Kaiser Family Foundation says in a 2021 analysis. “The additional incentive applies whenever a state newly expands Medicaid and does not expire. The new incentive is available to the 12 states that have not yet adopted the expansion as well as Missouri and Oklahoma.

Medicaid expansion is probably not going to help Dems much in the midterms. But looking ahead, it’s encouraging to know that red state voters do not wholeheartedly embrace the full GOP agenda for screwing  low-income people out of medical care, so Republican politicians can give the wealthy even larger tax cuts. Democratic campaigns take note

Edsall: Which party’s extremist wing is more destructive?

One of the frequently-heard critiques of current U.S. politics among the general public and many commentators is that extremists of both parties are blocking the good that would otherwise be politically possible. New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes the damage done to each party and to democracy in general by the “extreme wings” of the two major political parties. He shares some lucid insights from top political observers, including:

Two scholars who have been highly critical of developments in the Republican Party, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, co-authors of the book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” were both far more critical of the MAGA caucus than of the Squad.

Mann was adamant in his email:

The MAGA Caucus is antidemocratic, authoritarian, and completely divorced from reality and truth. The Squad embraces left views well within the democratic spectrum. What’s striking about the MAGA Caucus is that they are closer to the Republican mainstream these days, given the reticence of Republican officeholders to challenge Trump. We worry about the future of American democracy because the entire Republican Party has gone AWOL. The crazy extremists have taken over one of our two major parties.

The MAGA group, Ornstein wrote by email, is composed of

the true believers, who think Trump won, that there is rampant voter fraud, the country needs a caudillo, we have to crack down on trans people, critical race theory is an evil sweeping the country and more. The Squad is certainly on the left end of the party, but they do not have authoritarian tendencies and views.

‘Caudillo Republicans’ could be a catchy buzz term some Democratic campaigns use to describe their adversaries. Edsall continues,

Ocasio-Cortez, Ornstein wrote, “is smart, capable, and has handled her five minutes of questioning in committees like a master.”

William Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a co-author with Elaine Kamarck, also of Brookings, of “The New Politics of Evasion: How Ignoring Swing Voters Could Reopen the Door for Donald Trump and Threaten American Democracy,” wrote by email:

How does one measure “extreme”? By two metrics — detachment from reality and threats to the democratic process — the nod goes to the MAGA crowd over the Squad, whose extremism is only in the realm of policy. I could argue that the Squad’s policy stances — defund the police, abolish ICE, institute a Green New Deal — have done more damage to the Democratic Party than the MAGA crowd has to the Republicans. President Biden has been forced to back away from these policies, while Republicans sail along unscathed. By refusing to criticize — let alone break from — the ultra-MAGA representatives, Donald Trump has set the tone for his party. A majority of rank-and-file Democrats disagree with the Squad’s position. There’s no evidence that the Republican grassroots is troubled by the extremism in their own ranks.

I asked Galston what the implications were of Marjorie Taylor Greene winning renomination on May 24 with 69.5 percent of the primary vote.

He replied:

Trumpists hold a strong majority within the Republican Party, and in many districts the battle is to be seen as the Trumpiest Republican candidate. This is especially true in deep-red districts where winning the nomination is tantamount to winning the general election. A similar dynamic is at work in deep-blue districts, where the most left-leaning candidate often has the advantage. Candidates like these rarely succeed in swing districts, where shifts among moderate and independent voters determine general election winners. In both parties, there has been a swing away from candidates who care about the governance process, and toward candidates whose skills are oratorical rather than legislative. I could hypothesize that in an era of hyperpolarization in which gridlock is the default option, the preference for talkers over doers may be oddly rational.

They may be talkers rather than doers, but if, as currently expected, Republicans win control of the House on Nov. 8, 2022, the MAGA faction will be positioned to wield real power.

Liberal Democrats make a worthy point in arguing, no matter what AOC and the ‘squad’ actually say, believe or do, it will be distorted by the right-wing echo chamber. The squad members have to rep their constituents, even if they are to the left of most swing voters. Centrist Dems also have a good point in urging lefties to stop feeding the Republican propaganda machine and to take Democratic midterm prospects into more consideration. Democrats may not have the message discipline or echo chamber of the GOP. But surely Dems can make a better effort towards party unity.

Teixeira: Why Dems Must Get Tough on Crime

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

Maybe Not a Sister Souljah Moment

But a Chesa Boudin Moment might just do the trick! My latest at The Liberal Patriot.

“The crushing recall of San Francisco’s stridently progressive District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, crystallizes just how much trouble Democrats are in on the crime issue. When voters in San Francisco—San Francisco!—throw a progressive Democrat out of office for failing to provide public safety, you know Democrats have an urgent need to assure voters that they are in fact determined to crack down on crime and to dissociate the party from approaches that fail to do so.

This is a wave that has been building for some time. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide movement sparked by it, the climate for police reform was highly favorable. But Democrats blew the opportunity by allowing the party to be associated with unpopular movement slogans like “defund the police” that did not appear to take public safety concerns very seriously.

At the same time, Democrats became associated with a wave of progressive public prosecutors who seemed quite hesitant about keeping criminals off the street, even as a spike in violent crimes like murders and carjacking sweeps the nation. This was twinned to a climate of tolerance and non-prosecution for lesser crimes that degraded the quality of life in many cities under Democratic control. San Francisco became practically a poster child for the latter problem under Chesa Boudin’s “leadership”.

So the voters kicked him out by a wide 60 percent to 40 percent margin. According to one analysis, about 40 percent of the votes for recall came from majority white areas of the city while 60 percent came from majority nonwhite areas. Based on the neighborhood pattern of voting and pre-election polling data, it seems clear that Asian voter support for the recall was particularly strong.”

Read the rest, as always, at The Liberal Patriot.

How Abortion Politics in PA ‘Burbs May Save Dems Senate Majority

Nobody knows for certain whether or not the January 6th hearings will have an effect on the midterm elections. But Democrats have good reason to hope that the pending annihilation of women’s reproductive rights by the U.S. Supreme Court may have an effect on the midterms. As Ryan Cooper writes in his article, “In Pennsylvania, Democrats’ Suburban Strategy Is Being Put to the Test: The party needs to turn out the suburbs and shore up its urban base. Republican anti-abortion extremism might help” at The American Prospect:

The fate of the Democratic Party’s national fortunes this year may well be decided in Pennsylvania. The state has been a bellwether for the last two presidential elections, which were decided by tiny margins—0.7 percentage points (for Trump) and 1.2 (for Biden), respectively. The governor’s race, state legislature, and a critical open Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Pat Toomey are all up for grabs.

In the pre-Trump days, these midterm races would have been a lock for Republicans. The party that wins the presidency has almost always lost power at all levels of government in the succeeding midterm—and the exceptions come during highly unusual circumstances, like the Great Depression or immediately after 9/11.

On the surface, the signs have not looked good for Democrats. Pennsylvania’s Republicans have recently had a big advantage in new party registrations, and they are energized around Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Rank-and-file Democrats are demoralized about Joe Manchin blocking President Biden’s all-but-entire agenda, and Biden’s approval ratings are in bad shape.

But Trump also catalyzed a major demographic and regional realignment in Pennsylvania, and national politics is more unsettled than it’s been in years, especially thanks to a feral right-wing Supreme Court majority that appears to be on the verge of repealing Roe v. Wade. Democrats just might have a shot, if they can fix their lagging performance in Philadelphia and hold on to the suburbs, or even better their margins there by winning upscale Republican and independent women appalled at the prospect of outlawing abortion.

OK, maybe gas prices will influence more voters. But that doesn’t mean Democrats should abandon whatever advantage can be gained from the extremism of Republican Supreme Court justices. As Cooper continues:

….Philadelphia will likely be the place where the statewide races are decided in 2022. It’s the largest county in the state by a big margin, containing about 12 percent of the population, it is majority-nonwhite—41 percent Black and 15 percent Latino—and it appears to be up for grabs like no other similarly sized pot of votes in the state. If Republicans can turn out the Trumpy hinterland and continue to make headway among the nonwhite urban working class, as they did in 2020, then Democrats are toast. But if Democrats can hold on to their suburban and rural margins, or better them in the Philly suburbs, and revitalize their performance in the urban core, then they’ve got a fighting chance.

….In better news for Democrats’ chances (though not for the American people), the conservative movement has recently launched an all-out attack on reproductive freedom and LGBT rights that puts it on the wrong side of a supermajority of the American people. The draft version of an upcoming Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, which is reliably supported by about 60 percent of Americans, could tilt the electoral balance toward the Democrats.

Especially when Republican candidates like [Gubernatorial nominee Doug] Mastriano are taking the GOP ‘brand’ to even more extreme places.

….Sure enough, in a recent debate Mastriano said he favored banning all abortion at six weeks (which would mean virtually all of them), with no exception for rape, incest, or the life of the mother—a position supported by only about 15 percent of Pennsylvania residents….These developments give state Democrats, particularly gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro, a powerful argument in their favor—especially in affluent suburbs, where this kind of gratuitous, atavistic cruelty drove voters away from Trump and where turnout is likely to be high. If Republicans take complete control of the state legislature and the governorship, they could well pass a total abortion ban, along with God knows what other deranged policy. A Governor Shapiro could at least block any such law.

“Nevertheless,” Cooper concludes, “it would be helpful for Democrats to make a positive argument as well. One strong argument for Fetterman would be that he could add one more seat to Democrats’ Senate majority, meaning that the party would no longer need to keep both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on its side for every vote. A clear, explicit promise that should voters provide Democrats with control of the House and two more senators, they will pass a national legalization of abortion and gay marriage would fit the bill. Better still would be a credible plan to pass the Biden agenda on health care, family benefits, or climate change should Fetterman win—just as the promise to deliver $2,000 checks helped deliver two Senate seats to the Democrats in the Georgia runoffs in 2021.”

Democrats have a duty to publicize the January 6th hearings, and they may get some short horizon benefit in the polls. But it would be folly to count on the hearings making much of a difference in the midterm elections in November. The threat to the right of women to have dominion over their own bodies, however, is likely to endure as a front page issue all the way to election day. Work it hard in PA – but also in other states, where senate races are close.

Why Dems Should Coordinate Political and Legal Strategies

There are no major surprises resulting from Tuesday’s primaries so far, so let’s take a look at strategic considerations for Democrats regarding the current U.S. Supreme Court. At The Boston Review, a couple of constitutional law scholars, Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath, co-authors of The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, share their observations in “Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again: We must reject the legal liberalism that attempts to cordon off constitutional questions from democratic politics.” As Fishkin and Forbath write,

The Democrats are, for now, about two Senate votes shy of enacting a series of major reforms, from addressing climate change to protecting voting rights and making real progress in the fight to rein in the outsized political and economic power of the rich. But even assuming that the Democrats manage to enact such measures—overcoming our system’s many antidemocratic veto points, such as the Senate itself—the toughest challenge is still to come. The looming risk is that all such reforms may be unraveled by our archconservative Supreme Court. The Court has made the Constitution a weapon for selectively striking down legislation the justices disfavor. They are highly likely to wield it against laws that aim to repair economic or political inequality.

The Court can do this with near-total impunity today because many Americans accept the idea that the Supreme Court is the only institution with any role in saying what the Constitution means. Congress and other elected leaders, at best, can fill in the few blanks that the courts have left open. Rather than contesting the Court’s power to make highly questionable judgments about the meaning of the Constitution, most liberals today defend the Court’s authority. Their top complaint about the current Court is that it doesn’t have sufficient respect for its own precedents, which today’s majority is fast overturning as it lurches further right.

Noting that “liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics,” The authors add,

There is no future for the liberal idea (never adopted by conservatives) of a sharp separation between constitutional arguments in court and political arguments outside the courts. The border between the two is too thin and porous. Arguments move across it both ways, with profound effects. Declarations by courts shape the terms of public debate and move the horizons of political possibility; arguments in politics shape arguments in court. We are all responsible for participating in debates about the meaning of the Constitution, and we ought to recognize the power of this shared commitment. In the long run, it can help us build a more egalitarian and democratic society than some of our elites, on and off the Court, would accept.

….We see at least three key battles. First, it is time for progressives to reclaim the First Amendment, contesting the way it has been weaponized as a tool to thwart egalitarian legislation in campaign finance and labor law. Second, we must reforge the link between racial justice and political economy, widening the constitutional lens through which we see questions of race beyond antidiscrimination law and voting rights, to include substantive issues of mass incarceration, health care, public investment, job creation, and wealth inequality. Third, we must bring political economy back into view in areas where liberals retreated from politics and ceded power to economists, such as in antitrust, monetary policy, and corporate law.

To challenge the constitutional claims of hostile courts, progressives must first persuade our fellow Americans that certain progressive ideas are deeply rooted in American traditions of constitutional argument. In pursuing these ideas, we are not transgressing constitutional boundaries but rebuilding the economic and political foundations of U.S. democracy.

Among the reforms Fishkin and Forbath suggest, “Lawmakers can also alter the political economy of running for office—and improve the prospects of candidates and movements with poor and working-class constituencies—by making it less expensive to run a campaign.” They note, further,

When law students learn about the New Deal and its defense of the industrial union today, they focus on the expansion of national power through the Commerce Clause. That was part of the story. But at the time, the era’s leading scholar of the Supreme Court, Edward Corwin, saw things quite differently. He saw a constitutional “revolution” taking place—not about the commerce power, but about the constitutional meaning of freedom. Safeguarding workers’ collective freedoms against private employers’ coercion—and guaranteeing “the economic security of the common man” through social insurance—were now “affirmative” governmental obligations….Unsurprisingly, for decades the remnants of this vision have been squarely in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and judges. Starting with the counterrevolution of the late 1940s, the “right to work” movement has waged an ongoing campaign of legislation and litigation funded and supported by corporate executives and employers’ associations, as well as by wealthy anti-union ideological activists, to destroy the New Deal vision of labor as a source of countervailing social and political power against oligarchy.

….As today’s liberal justices stare down a far bolder and more sweeping antilabor intervention, insights about labor as a countervailing power are nowhere to be found. For lawyers focused on the action inside the Court, making such arguments in the face of conservative majorities might seem pointless. But this concern misses the role constitutional arguments play in public debate. They not only shape litigation but also send signals to the political branches and the people about what cases like Janus are really about—not speech, but constitutional political economy. Rebuilding a powerful progressive movement with a central place for organized labor requires forging a new understanding of the constitutional necessity of countervailing power—an understanding that will have to begin life outside the courts, but ultimately will reverberate both inside and out.

Looking to the future, they suggest:

There is a path forward. Democrats committed to labor law reform have gained power within the party. Not since Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley in 1947 (a veto later overridden by the conservative Dixiecrat/Republican coalition) has the White House spoken about workers’ right to organize the way President Biden speaks about it. Although Democrats do not yet have the votes in the Senate, the House recently passed a sweeping labor law reform bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which aims to repeal crucial elements of Taft–Hartley and boost efforts to organize unions. Among other things, the PRO Act would expand the definition of work to ensure that organized workers in today’s fragmented workplace—from fast food franchise workers to “contracted” Uber and Lyft drivers, to home health care workers—can bargain with the companies who benefit from their work. The PRO Act would repeal some of the most crippling restrictions on the rights to strike and boycott, such as the ban on so-called secondary actions, which blocks workers who have some organized economic clout from aiding workers who don’t. As the House Education and Labor Committee puts it, the Act would enable “unions to exercise these basic First Amendment rights.” It is very encouraging that this view—that the Taft-Hartley prohibitions violate basic constitutional rights—is once more gaining strength in Congress.

Enacting transformative labor law reform will involve fierce and protracted battles, not only in the Senate, but in courts (where challenges are inevitable), in workplaces, and in the public sphere. Getting there will require both Democratic majorities committed to such change and considerable labor organizing and action on the ground. As in the 1930s, workers will need to exercise their rights to organize, strike, and act in solidarity in contexts where this is now illegal, in the face of judicial injunctions, fines, and jail time….Progressives will need more than the old liberal response that Congress has broad power under the Commerce Power to regulate the national economy, and that Congress has exercised that power to promote labor peace. Both in court and outside of it, and in legislative bodies from city councils up to Congress, progressives should work to show their fellow citizens that rebuilding labor is a constitutional necessity.

Fishkin and Forbath also address current legal concerns regarding racial justice and disproportionate corporate power to manipulate the economy, and conclude, “We must disperse political and economic power widely enough to ensure that economic opportunity is broadly shared and racially inclusive. These are not merely constitutionally permissible goals; they are constitutional necessities. Legislators and citizens who hope to reverse the present slide into oligarchy need to recover these arguments and deploy them to help rebuild the democratic foundations of our republic.”

Teixeira: Umm…About That Supposed Left Wing Great Replacement Theory

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

Predictably, some on the right have sought to characterize the left as having their own equally noxious Great Replacement Theory and, as evidence, many have cited, well, me and my esteemed co-author John Judis.

This is baloney of course and both Judis and I were pleased to see Joan Walsh defend our honor in The Nation:

“There is, in fact, a great replacement theory, they now argue—and it’s been peddled by Democrats. They’re claiming it emerged largely from a book by two friends of mine: The Emerging Democratic Majority, written by Ruy Teixeira and John B. Judis roughly 20 years ago.

“As Republicans flip from “We don’t believe in a great replacement theory” to “Hey, it’s real, but Democrats invented it!”—they routinely cite Judis and Teixeira….

Teixeira and Judis never promoted the notion that immigration, legal or illegal, was going to transform the Democratic Party. The growth of “ideopolises” was a bigger deal. If you can’t grab the book off one of your bookshelves, try this excerpt from The New York Times. And see if you recognize the book Ann Coulter and others are slurring.

The other reason I knew these lying liars are lying is that Judis and Teixeira aren’t ideologues. Their book didn’t advocate policy; it described trends.”

In addition, Ryan Mills at National Review had a good article about the controversy where he allowed me to defend our honor directly:

“In 2002, Ruy Teixeira co-authored the book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which posited that the changing electoral landscape — the changing voting behavior of women, professionals, and younger people, along with racial and ethnic demographic patterns — was poised to benefit Democrats. Teixeira told National Review that he and his co-author, John Judis, were merely pointing out clear demographic trends “That’s different from arguing that Democrats should consciously engineer and accelerate this shift,” he said. “We said not one word about that.”…

Teixeira said he doesn’t believe it’s fair to say that Democrats are intentionally engineering demographic changes to their political benefit. He called the great replacement theory “a pretty far right-wing constellation of ideas coming out of Europe.” But he said left-wing cheerleading of white decline has “certainly gone too far.”

Teixeira said that in their book, he and Judis were always talking about the “potential” for a Democratic majority. “I emphasize potential,” he said, “because we talked in the book about how it was necessary for these opportunities to be handled intelligently, for the Democrats to adopt a variety of what we called progressive centrism. And above all else, and we talked about this and everyone immediately forgot it, that you need to have a certain share of more conservative, white working-class voters still on board with your party, or the political arithmetic just doesn’t work.”

Teixeira has said a “dangerous misinterpretation” of his book helped elect Donald Trump.

Some conservatives have argued that Democratic crowing about declining white power and the weaponization of demographic change have alienated working-class whites. Teixeira said it also encouraged Democrats to act like they don’t need those voters.

“It encourages the lazy, counterproductive, and basically mathematically illiterate approach to the electorate where these idiots think that they can get by without paying attention to what more conservative or non-college white voters think,” Teixeira said.”

Both articles are worth a read and provide a solid rebuttal to attempts to recruit our book as a sort of lefty Great Replacement handbook.

Dems Should Prep for Intimidation at Polls

In her Politico article, “‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections: Placing operatives as poll workers and building a “hotline” to friendly attorneys are among the strategies to be deployed in Michigan and other swing states,” Heidi Przbyla reports on Republican plans for confrontations at the polls and for influencing midterm election results. As Przbyla writes:

“Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.

The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.

“Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,” said Matthew Seifried, the RNC’s election integrity director for Michigan, stressing the importance of obtaining official designations as poll workers in a meeting with GOP activists in Wayne County last Nov. 6. It is one of a series of recordings of GOP meetings between summer of 2021 and May of this year obtained by POLITICO.

Backing up those front-line workers, “it’s going to be an army,” Seifried promised at an Oct. 5 training session. “We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?”

Przbyla adds that “election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.”

Przbyla notes further, “Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa said the DNC “trains poll watchers to help every eligible voter cast a ballot,” but neither the DNC nor the state party trains poll workers. The DNC did help recruit poll workers in 2020 due to a drop-off in older workers amid the pandemic; but he says it is not currently doing so and has never trained poll workers to contest votes.

One of the most chilling revelations of Przbyla’s article: ““Come election day you create massive failure of certification” in Democratic precincts, Penniman said. “The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures.”

Also, “Of all former President Donald Trump’s battleground-state allies, Republican operatives in the state of Michigan came the closest to throwing the 2020 election — and the nation — into a constitutional crisis. So many volunteer challengers overwhelmed Detroit’s TCF Center, where votes were being counted, that police intervened because Covid safety protocols had been breached.” The plan also includes directions for “How to challenge a voter,” with detailed instructions.

Przbyla’s article focused on Michigan. But it’s likely that similar plans are being made in other battleground states and districts.

Some things Dems or progressives can do to prepare for Republican challenges:

  1. Amp up early voting. Encourage more voters to bank their ballots as early as possible.

  2. Expand and enhance legal teams to confront Republican legal scams and intimidation at the polls.

  3. Run ads to make sure the public knows who is threatening violence at the polls.

  4. Mobilize cell phone squads to make videos of intimidation.

  5. Get some union members, who will not be intimidated by goons, to staff the polls.