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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Filibuster Reform On Deck for Dems

The following article, “Senate Democrats are finally looking to fix their biggest mistake” by Hayes Brown, is cross-posted from msnbc.com:

If Democrats retain control of the Senate after this fall’s elections — and as of today that’s still a big “if” — the filibuster as we know it may finally be toast next year. Despite the 60-vote threshold’s being antidemocratic, extraconstitutional and antithetical to the founders’ vision, it has taken years of hemming and hawing for Democrats to reach this point. With its potential demise, the country can finally start to get back on track — or at the very least force our lawmakers to be honest about their vision for the future.

In the last Congress, two Democratic senators stood in the way of filibuster reform: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the latter of whom later switched to be an independent. They argued that the filibuster is a method of forcing bipartisanshipon issues and that it encourages more debate between senators, neither of which holds water when you look at the history of the filibuster. Thanks to Sinema and Manchin, Democrats had to leave many wins on the table, including subsidized child care for struggling parents, codifying Roe v. Wade and much-needed protections for voting rights. Those big-ticket items wouldn’t have just made millions of Americans’ lives better, but they also might have helped Democrats this November.

Any Democratic plan for reform would require majority support: either 51 senators or, should Vice President Kamala Harris be re-elected this fall, 50 votes plus the vice president’s tiebreaking vote. As things stand, the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate aren’t ideal; the party is defending nearly twice as many seats as Republicans are, including three in states Donald Trump has won twice. But both Manchin and Sinema are retiring this term, and, as NBC News has reported, Democratic candidates looking to join the Senate’s ranks are all in on reform:

The likely Democratic nominee to replace Sinema in Arizona, Rep. Ruben Gallego, promises that if he is elected he would support “waiving the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade.”

Democratic candidates for open seats in California (Rep. Adam Schiff), Michigan (Rep. Elissa Slotkin), Delaware (Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester) and Maryland (county executive Angela Alsobrooks) have all called for eliminating the filibuster.…

And the Democrats running in the red-leaning states of Texas (Rep. Colin Allred) and Florida (former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell) have also championed exceptions to the filibuster to establish federal abortion rights. The GOP is favored in those states, but Democrats can hold the majority without them.

The timing of filibuster reform might seem risky: Not only is control of the Senate a toss-up, but so is control of the White House and the House of Representatives. But it’s still worth pushing filibuster reform — even if the GOP keeps the House and Trump returns to the presidency.

It’s a task that will be made slightly easier as Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one the filibuster’s foremost defenders, steps down as the leader of the GOP caucus. In contrast, Trump has pushed repeatedly to have the GOP end the filibuster when it held a trifecta in the first half of his term. While the main candidates to replace McConnell also seem dead set on continuing his legacy on that front, not all Republicans are 100% noes. “The filibuster has meant different things over time,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told NBC News. “And there are different ways to implement it. So we could talk about how the filibuster is structured. Do you have to hold the floor or not, etc. We could probably have a conversation on that.”

Hawley was referring to one option short of totally abolishing the filibuster: forcing senators to go back to the “talking filibuster” as seen in the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” That’s how the filibuster worked for most of its existence and how many Americans still assume it works. Senators would once again have to hold the floor to prevent legislation from moving forward with a majority of votes, rather than the current method, which requires only that a senator’s staffer send an email. Shifting to a talking filibuster would at least show effort from the senators and willingness to stand up and argue for or against whatever bill is being voted on before allowing the majority’s will to carry the day.

Also, as I argued back in 2021, the current version of the filibuster rule helps only Republicans. Democrats are far likelier to push for programs and policies that require new structures and funding. Meanwhile, the GOP, by and large, has abandoned legislating as the primary means of governing. Instead, Republicans rely on stacking the federal courts and otherwise handing over the reins to the White House.

You don’t have to take it from me. Here’s what Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told NBC News in explaining his support for the filibuster:

“We’re united in that. We realize the tables will turn, and if they had ultimate control, this country would be over,” Johnson said, calling it a bulwark against “socialist and radical left policies.” He said that if Donald Trump wins the presidency, he could use executive power to secure the border if Democrats filibuster immigration bills.

The filibuster, in his own words, is a roadblock against Democratic policies and tyranny, but GOP priorities can just go through the presidency. In this way, filibuster reform, even during Republican control, would help remove an argument in favor of Trump’s governing solely through executive action. Republicans opposed to broadly unpopular policies — like, say, a nationwide abortion ban — wouldn’t be able to hide behind the filibuster, as Manchin and Sinema did across the aisle, when only a simple majority would be required to pass legislation.

The legislative gridlock we’ve seen has been a major reason the last three presidents have worked to find whatever loopholes possible to act without Congress, especially on immigration. The filibuster is thus a win-win for autocratically minded Republicans. When they’re in the minority, it allows them to block major legislation; when they’re in the majority, it serves as an excuse to have the White House move unilaterally. It’s in Democrats’ — and the country’s — best interests, then, to support changes to the filibuster, no matter who wins this fall.

Meyerson: Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible?

From “Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible? A new survey of key swing states shows how it could be done, but—granting its necessity—it sure sounds difficult” by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect:

A New York Times/Siena national poll from last month shows Biden’s level of support among non-college voters of all races is down to 39 percent, which is nine percentage points beneath his level of support from those voters in the 2020 election. If he can’t make up that gap or get close to it between now and November, his goose, not to mention civilization’s, is cooked.

One reason why that decline looms so large is that working-class voters constitute a disproportionately large share of the electorate in three must-win swing states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This week, two groups that have long been surveying the Midwest working class—In Union, and the Factory Towns Project of American Family Voices—are releasing a study of those voters, focusing on the issues that can move them back into the Democrats’ column, and even more on the means by which Democrats can and must make their case.

Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but lost those states to Biden in 2020. By itself, the shift in union household voting between 2016 and 2020 more than accounted for Biden’s narrow margins of victory in those three states. As the study documents, the swing among working-class voters in Michigan came to approximately 104,000; in Pennsylvania, 137,000; and in Wisconsin, 28,000. Recent polling in those states, however, shows that Biden’s levels of support among working-class voters have subsided to Clinton’s insufficient levels of 2016.

The polls undertaken by the study’s two sponsors make clear that the issues that could bring Biden’s totals up among these voters, not surprisingly, involve progressive populism. Both polling and focus groups made clear that these voters “are very inclined to believe Democrats who tell a story about price gouging and outrageous corporate profits. They are angry that wealthy corporate CEOs and billionaires aren’t paying what they should in taxes and that the top 1 percent (yes, they still use that phrase) are gaming the system.”

The other issue to which these voters responded most positively is the hardy perennial of retirement security and access to affordable health care. They give greater credence to the Democratic record on Social Security and Medicare, and the party’s pledges to defend them, than they do to the Republican position. The study also shows that Democratic support for abortion rights, affordable child care, and even forgiving student loans is widely popular among these working-class voters, and that Democrats should not skimp on defending those positions. But the primary message must center on attacking corporate greed and defending the right to a secure retirement.

Meyerson explains further, “One of the key strategic elements to moving these voters,” the study claims, “is tapping into trusted sources to communicate with them. Simply airing a bunch of TV ads and knocking on doors late in the campaign is not going to break through with these voters—they are too convinced that most people like them are voting Republican and too cynical about politics as it is commonly practiced to be moved much by traditional ads and campaign tactics right before Election Day.” Also,

This assessment echoes that in perhaps the best book that’s come out on the political shift in much of the working class: Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol’s Rust Belt Union Blues, which was published last year. The book, which I reviewed for the Prospect in January, takes a granular look at the onetime mine and mill towns of Western Pennsylvania. In 1960, those towns (also including the cities of Pittsburgh and Erie) were home to 143 locals of the United Steelworkers; today, only 16 of those locals still exist. In 1960, those locals were not just venues for union meetings. They were also union social halls, where members and their families came to unwind after work, and hold weddings and other family celebrations. The unions were a social center of those towns’ collective life (something the movie The Deer Hunter depicted quite well), creating peer groups and communities enmeshed in the union’s values and, more often than not, its politics.

Today, not only are those union locals long gone, but the only real remaining social centers in most of those towns are gun clubs, most of them affiliated with the National Rifle Association as a way to get discounted guns for their members. Today, the peer groups and communities for most working-class residents of the once-industrial Midwest have become Republican, a transition that the In Union/Factory Towns survey completely corroborates.

So who are “the trusted sources,” as the survey puts it, the neighbors and friends who still retain credibility, who can convey the Democrats’ populist messaging to working-class voters? The study calls on unions to activate their members to be the precinct walkers who can actually talk to working-class voters, but acknowledges that due to unions’ declining numbers, they must be joined by Democratic and other movement activists. In Union has identified 3.3 million voters in those three swing states who have pro-union attitudes; 14 percent of them say they’re undecided in the upcoming presidential and senatorial elections.

But building a community where progressive populist politics is the norm rather than the exception is the work of years, and the study acknowledges that Democrats are flat out of years to do that work. “We aren’t going to transform the landscape and reverse all the problematic trends in six months in terms of working-class voters,” it says, adding, “right now this is a game of inches. But given how close battleground elections are going to be, inches are the difference between winning and losing.”

It was not in the purview of this study to review how the Democrats got themselves into this fix with the American working class. But it’s clear that the Democrats’ decades of indifference to unions’ decline was a primary reason, and in many parts of the country, the disappearance of unions was perhaps the primary reason. Unions have rebounded in the popularity polls and have recently won some important organizing victories (though not at the Mercedes plant in Alabama), but that doesn’t mean they have enough activists in working-class communities to prod their politically undecided neighbors to cast their votes for Joe Biden this fall.

Meyerson concludes, “For that reason, the study chiefly reads as a plea to the rest of us: Do what you can to help our guys out!”

Teixeira: The Working Class-Sized Hole in Democratic Support Widens

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Toward the beginning of this year, I remarked in a post on “The Coming Working-Class Election”:

Here is a simple truth: how working-class (noncollege) voters move will likely determine the outcome of the 2024 election. They will be the overwhelming majority of eligible voters (around two-thirds) and, even allowing for turnout patterns, only slightly less dominant among actual voters (around three-fifths). Moreover, in all six key swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the working-class share of the electorate, both as eligible voters and as projected 2024 voters, will be higher than the national average.

It follows that significant deterioration in working-class support could put Biden in a very deep hole nationally and key states. Conversely, a burgeoning advantage among working-class voters would likely put Trump in a dominant position.

So, how’s that going now that we’re almost midway through the election year? From the standpoint of the Democrats, not good, not good at all. The just-released New York Times/Philadelphia Inquirer/Siena College poll provides an opportunity to check in on the working class vote in considerable detail. The Times poll provides data across the six key Presidential battleground states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—as well as data for each of these individual states. Here is what I found:

1. Across the battleground, Biden is losing to Trump among working-class voters by 16 points. That compares to Biden’s national working-class deficit of just 4 points in 2020. It’s also slightly worse than Biden’s performance in last October’s Times poll which covered the same states, when he was behind among these voters by 15 points.

2. The October-to-May deterioration among working-class voters is actually a bit worse among likely voters. Biden was behind Trump by 14 points among these voters last October; the gap today is now 18 points. However, in what follows I will confine my analysis to registered voters, since the Times does not provide demographic breakdowns for likely voters within states.

3. The October-to-May deterioration is also worse among nonwhite working-class voters. Biden was ahead among these voters in the battleground states by 16 points last October (note that this compares to the 48 point advantage Biden had nationally in 2020). But his advantage among nonwhite working class voters has fallen to single digits—9 points—in the new data.

4. In Arizona, Biden trails Trump by 9 points among working-class voters. In 2020, when Biden barely won the state by three-tenths of a percentage point, his deficit among these voters was only 4 points.

5. In Georgia, Biden is losing to Trump by a daunting 21 points among working-class voters. That compares to Biden’s modest 6 point gap in 2020 (here I use States of Change data, since Catalist data are not available for the state). Biden won Georgia in 2020 by a slender two-tenths of percentage point.

6. In Michigan, Biden’s working-class deficit against Trump is 24 points. In 2020, that deficit was just 6 points.

7. In Nevada, Biden trails Trump by 21 points among working-class voters. But in 2020, Biden and Trump were tied among these voters! That’s quite a drop. As noted in a followup Times article on their Nevada survey, Nevada is a state where Biden’s stewardship of the economy is viewed especially negatively. Among working class Nevada voters, Trump is deemed better than Biden for handling the economy by 40 points (66 to 26 percent). Interestingly, white and nonwhite working-class voters are basically united in their view of Trump vs. Biden on the economy: white working-class voters prefer Trump by 67-24, while nonwhite working class voters prefer Trump by 63-29.

8. In Pennsylvania, it’s Trump over Biden by 19 points among working-class voters. That’s a sharp drop from Biden’s 9 point deficit among these voters in 2020 (States of Change data). This is a state that Biden won by only a single point last election.

9. In Wisconsin, Biden is behind Trump by 6 points among working-class voters. That doesn’t sound so great but is actually 6 points better than Biden did in 2020, when he lost these voters by 12 points. This is the only state of the six surveyed by the Times where Biden is running better among these voters today than in 2020. And, not coincidentally, it is the only state of the six where Biden is currently leading Trump among registered voters.

This is all pretty baleful for the Democrats. As Timothy Noah has remarked:

For the past 100 years, no Democrat—with one exception—has ever entered the White House without winning a majority of the working-class vote, defined conventionally as those voters who possess a high school degree but no college degree. The exception was Joe Biden in 2020, under highly unusual circumstances (a badly-mismanaged Covid pandemic, an economy going haywire). It’s unlikely in the extreme that Biden can manage that trick a second time. He must win the working-class vote in 2024.

As the Times data (and much other data) show, that objective seems quite far away for Biden at this point. And that’s a problem: you can’t hit the target unless you’re aiming at it. That’s why I think that the Biden campaign’s notorious “polling denialism” might well be viewed as “working class denialism.” The Biden campaign would rather think about this election as “the democracy election” and/or “the abortion rights election”; advocates tell the campaign it should be “the climate election” or “the student loans election” or “the Palestinian rights election” or the “racial justice election.” But in the end, the outcome will be determined by how the working class assesses the choice between Trump and Biden and casts their vote. That fact should not be denied—and the fact should be faced that none of the above issues provides the key for turning the election in Democrats’ favor.

What would? The answer may be quite mundane if challenging to implement, not least because it goes against the grain of the Democrats’ shadow party and their amen corner in the media and academia. A recent memo from the Blueprint strategy notes:

We tested messages that Biden could use to expose Trump’s vulnerabilities, and the ones that voters found most compelling focused on economic fairness and how that should be reflected in public policy—not on Biden and Trump’s respective characters, biographies, and backgrounds….

Blueprint’s latest survey, conducted in partnership with The Liberal Patriot, showed that many of the policies that are most popular with voters can be used to make the case that Biden is the candidate for average Americans while Trump is the candidate who advocates for the interests of the very rich. Among the 40 policies we tested, the most popular ones are those that crack down on corporations, lower the prices of health care and other things, and protect Medicare and Social Security.

Just as the most effective tax and economic policy messages in the poll centered on those topics, none of these stances are particularly sexy or novel; instead, they are positions that are easy to imagine any Democrat supporting over the last decade. Trump has many qualities and vulnerabilities that make him distinct from run-of-the-mill Republicans of the past and present, which are tempting to focus on in paid and earned media. But our polling shows that ahead of November, Biden would be wise to highlight boring-but-popular policy distinctions that he supports in order to drive home the overall contrast between himself and Trump on tax policy and economic fairness.

Would this work? There is no guarantee; Democratic vulnerabilities on issues like immigration, crime, and social disorder would remain. But it does seem better suited to the realities of the coming working-class election than the Biden campaign’s current approach. That approach may resonate better with the Democrats’ shadow party and activist supporters, but not where it counts the most: with the working class.

Etelson and Flaccavento: How Dems Can Win Back Rural Voters

The following article, “It’s Not Too Late for Democrats to Win Back Rural Voters” by Erica Etelson and Anthony Flaccavento, is cross-posted from The Nation:

After three decades of increasingly steep losses in rural America, Democrats are finally beginning to grapple with an inconvenient truth: An enduring Democratic majority requires winning back some portion of persuadable rural working-class voters.

Both Republicans’ and Democrats’ neoliberal economic policies have been harmful—in some instances ruinous—to rural communities. The GOP, on the whole, has caused more economic pain—but it has also been the party that has acknowledged rural struggles and put the people who’ve been harmed at the center of their rhetoric. None more so than Donald Trump, who said, in 2016, “Every time you see a closed factory or a wiped out community in Ohio, it was essentially caused by the Clintons.”

Too many Democrats, meanwhile, have sounded either dismissive of or exasperated by rural people. In 2016, Chuck Schumer’s catastrophically cavalier strategy willfully sacrificed blue-collar rural voters in exchange (or so he’d hoped) for high-income suburbanites. As far as the Democratic establishment was concerned, non-college-educated rural voters should quit complaining and simply get a degree—ideally in coding—and join the knowledge economy. Such contempt for a large swath of America has resulted in the ongoing erosion of Democratic supportamong working-class white and non-white voters.

Joe Biden, more than any president in decades, has prioritized rural people with a remarkable set of pro-worker policies and major investments in rural economies and infrastructure. We believe that this record offers a foundation for Democrats at all levels to begin to win back working-class rural voters—while holding on to the party’s multiracial urban and suburban base.

In 2022, the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative (which we cofounded) interviewed 50 Democratic candidates, from 25 states, who ran in rural districts between 2016 and 2020. Though they didn’t all win office, they all significantly overperformed the partisan lean of their district or state.

Our questions to them boiled down to, “What was your secret sauce?” From their answers, we identified several key ingredients: First and foremost, successful candidates were highly attuned to the concerns of their would-be constituents. Instead of running on a cookie-cutter national Democratic platform, they focused on the things voters in their district cared about most—kitchen-table matters like jobs and the economy, alongside ultra-local problems such as lousy roads, underfunded hospitals, and spotty Internet access.

Overperforming candidates also eschewed Beltway political consultants in favor of campaign staffers rooted in the community. This made for authentic campaigns with local flavor. Former Maine state senator Chloe Maxmin, for example, deployed homemade yard signs that were a folksy departure from the typically soulless campaign placards that litter the landscape.

Rural overperformers did something else that’s unpopular within the progressive left but widely appreciated by rural swing voters: They didn’t demonize Trump, no matter how richly he deserved it. And they didn’t try to scare or pressure persuadable voters into seeing the GOP or MAGA as an existential threat to democracy. Such rhetoric is music to the base’s ears but falls flat with key constituencies, most worryingly youth and Latinos.

Guillermo Lopez, a board member of the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had this to say about Democrats’ hyping the MAGA threat to democracy: “I actually think that harms the vote.… [The average person who] just puts their nose to the grindstone and goes to work, I don’t think that motivates them. I think it scares them and freezes them.”

We’re with Lopez. Time spent enumerating and labeling Trump’s voluminous misconduct is time that could have been spent connecting with voters on what they care about most. We reserve judgment as to whether sounding the alarm about MAGA fascism appeals to disaffected or undecided urban and suburban voters, but we’re reasonably confident that this message does little to help rural candidates.

The superiority of depolarizing rhetoric is corroborated by a wide body of academic and poll-tested research documented in our full report. At the end of the day, the rural Democrats able to chip away at Republican strongholds were the ones who knew how to meet voters where they already were—not where they wished they were at. This sounds like Politics 101, but it’s a principle all too often cast aside by candidates and campaign consultants who spend too much time tuned in to MSNBC pundits and not enough listening to their own voters.

Democrats running in this cycle should study the 2022 campaigns of Representatives Mary Peltola, who won in solidly red Alaska, and Marie Glusenkamp Perez, who won Washington State’s Third Congressional District, which had been in Republican hands for six terms. Peltola ran on “Fish, Family, Freedom” and in her current reelection campaign calls on Alaskans to say “to hell with politics” and “work together to protect our Alaska way of life.”

Glusenkamp Perez won her 2022 race in large part because of her credibility as co-owner of an auto repair shop and her laser-sharp focus on issues her constituents prioritized, like the “right to repair” farming and other equipment. While some on the left are angry that she doesn’t toe the Democratic party line on every issue, her record shows her to be the kind of left-leaning populist who can win in rural districts. The Democratic Party would be wise to embrace socially moderate, economically and stylistically populist candidates like Glusenkamp Perez and Peltola as part of its coalition.

In the spirit of cross-racial populist solidarity, top-performing rural candidates put work and workers at the center of their policy and rhetoric, proposing a “hand up” rather than a “handout.” For the great majority of rural people, self-reliance—the wherewithal to solve our own problems and meet our own needs—is central to our identity. We don’t know a single farmer, conservative or liberal, who doesn’t feel this way. As Colby College rural political scholars Nick Jacobs and Dan Shea put it, “What rural residents want to hear is this: ‘Make it possible for us to improve our communities ourselves.’”

Rural residents might be disproportionately dependent on some form of government transfer payment, but they don’t like it. Farah Stockman, author of American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears, wrote, “Too often, those who champion the working class speak only of social safety nets, not the jobs that anchor a working person’s identity.” The key is in the delivery, ensuring that local communities can adapt and drive these investments rather than trying to implement ill-suited, top-down mandates.

The Biden administration’s aggressive anti-trust actions combined with rule changes favoring workers and organized labor are critical steps in giving non-college-educated working people agency. Its investments in rural infrastructure and manufacturing are essential as well.

Likewise, the Biden campaign’s decision to hire a rural coordinator bodes well. But that coordinator’s efficacy will be orders of magnitude greater if they hire a small army of locally rooted staff who know how to make a national campaign relevant and resonant for rural voters.

While Democrats will not “win” rural America in 2024, they can and must run up the margins with rural voters—a third of whom are considered persuadable—if they are to keep the presidency and control Congress and statehouses. Because it turns out the secret sauce isn’t that complicated: Find out what’s most important to persuadable rural people, and focus on that. That’s the only recipe worth cooking.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden’s surprise proposal to debate Trump early, explained,” Andrew Prokop explains at Vox: “Biden’s proposal for a June debate is surprising, since every presidential debate has been in September or October. We don’t know exactly what the campaign is thinking, but there are a few likely considerations.

  1. Biden is trailing in the polls right now, and usually, the trailing candidate wants to shake up the status quo somehow.
  2. Biden’s team wants to frame the election as a choice between him and Trump, rather than just a referendum on his job performance. A debate would clearly do that, putting them side by side and making clear that it really is either him or Trump.
  3. His team may hope that if Biden performs well, he could quiet voters’ concerns about his age and mental fitness.
  4. If a June debate does go poorly for Biden, there will still be ample time for him to recover. And even if Biden flops in September, too, the campaign would continue throughout October, giving time for voters’ attention to shift to other things.

RFK Jr. likely won’t be invited to the first debate: Another big question hanging over this year’s potential debates is whether third-party or independent candidates would be included — most notably, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who neither Biden nor Trump want onstage….CNN announced qualification rules for the June debate that would make it extremely difficult for RFK Jr. to qualify by then….The network said candidates must hit 15 percent in at least four national polls from approved outlets by June 20. That’s the traditional standard used for general election presidential debates. RFK Jr. has been polling at about 10 percent nationally, which is below the threshold but not too far below it….The catch, though, is that CNN also said the candidate must qualify for the ballot in states that added up to 270 electoral votes. According to Politico, RFK Jr. is currently on the ballot in only four states, and though his team’s effort to qualify in others has been going better than expected, it likely wouldn’t happen soon enough for the late June debate.”

Bill Scher writes that “Trump Promised 100% Tariffs on Chinese EVs. Biden Did It. Will It Work?at The Washington Monthly. He explains further, “The big political news today, as was the case yesterday, is Michael Cohen’s testimony in the Donald Trump hush money trial….The big policy news today is Joe Biden slapping stiff tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports, including a striking 100 percent tariff on electric vehicles (EVs), up from 27.5 percent. You can read the White House announcement here….Is this policy a good idea? Is it crude protectionism in the mold of Trump? Is it honorably standing up for American workers? Will it help or hurt the transition to a clean energy economy? President Biden said, “”American workers can out-work and out-compete anyone as long as the competition is fair, but for too long it hasn’t been fair,” Biden said during a speech in the White House Rose Garden before unions and companies. “We’re not going to let China flood our market,” Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland report at Reuters. They add that “Biden will keep tariffs put in place by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump while ratcheting up others, including a quadrupling of EV duties to over 100% and doubling the duties on semiconductor tariffs to 50%….The new measures affect $18 billion in imported Chinese goods including steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, critical minerals, solar cells and cranes, the White House said. The EV figure, while headline-grabbing, may have more political than practical impact in the U.S., which imports very few Chinese EVs….The United States imported $427 billion in goods from China in 2023 and exported $148 billion to the world’s No. 2 economy, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a trade gap that has persisted for decades and become an ever more sensitive subject in Washington….Biden has struggled to convince voters of the efficacy of his economic policies despite a backdrop of low unemployment and above-trend economic growth. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed Trump had a 7 percentage-point edge over Biden on the economy.” Jonathan Yerushalmy notes at The Guardian that “experts say that the new tariffs are likely a preventive measure to stop China flooding the US market with its surplus product – and by that measure they’re likely to be effective.”

In related economic news, Chris Marquette writes at Politico that “President Joe Biden’s surrogates will crisscross the country this week talking up the hundreds of billions he’s pumping into projects such as roads, clean energy, drinking water and broadband — an effort designed to draw a sharp contrast with his predecessor’s series of ineffectual “infrastructure weeks.” However, “recent polls — including one published last week by POLITICO and Morning Consult — show the message has been slow to sink in with voters. And a POLITICO analysis of the implementation of Biden’s four landmark infrastructure, climate, technology and pandemic-relief laws found that only 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion in funding that Congress provided has been spent to date, thanks in part to the time it takes to vet, approve and move so much money through myriad federal agencies, state governments and private recipients….Infrastructure Week, which begins Monday, was already an annual industry gathering and Washington lobbying fly-in before Trump’s administration borrowed the name for its unsuccessful attempts to pitch a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that would have offered little new federal funding. Now, Biden’s White House is embracing the real event — and dispatching stand-ins such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, senior White House adviser Tom Perez and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to appearances around the country….According to the new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll, many voters aren’t that familiar with the laws and don’t see the benefits in their lives yet. And, perhaps most ominously for the White House before an election, respondents gave Biden only a 3 percentage-point advantage over Trump when asked who was more responsible for improving America’s infrastructure and creating jobs.”

Political commentators who still argue that Democrats should basically ‘skip the south’ have some ‘splainin’ to do in light of newly released demographic data. At Axios, Alex Fitzpatrick observes “Atlanta, Fort Worth and Raleigh are America’s fastest-growing cities with more than 250,000 residents as of 2023, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data out today….Why it matters: Late-pandemic shifts in where Americans live are still shaking out — with big implications for cities seeing massive growth or rapid decline….By the numbers: Atlanta grew by 2.42% between 2022 and 2023, and now has 510,823 residents….Fort Worth grew by 2.23% with 978,468 residents in 2023, and Raleigh grew by 1.87%, with 482,295 residents….Losers: New Orleans (shrank -1.56%, to 364,136 residents), St. Louis (-1.55%, to 281,754 residents) and Philadelphia (-1.04%, to 1,550,542 residents)….The big picture: Southern cities dominate the list of the fastest-growing big metros, with Florida and Texas alone accounting for eight of the top 20….Between the lines: Some of America’s fastest-growing places are not cities themselves, but their outer suburbs, or “exurbs.”….”Fewer of the fastest-growing places between 2022 and 2023 were inner suburbs than in 2019 … and more were on the far outskirts of metro areas — 30, 40 and even more than 60 miles away from the largest city’s downtown,” according to a Census Bureau analysis….That’s a particularly pronounced phenomenon in the Phoenix metro area, where four exurbs made up a third of the broader area’s population growth in 2023, the Bureau says.” For 2024, Pennsylvania remains the largest swing state in terms of electoral votes – unless Biden pulls off a Florida miracle. But given these numbers, Democrats clearly have to look southward for longer-term strategy in presidential elections.

Eleveld: Biden Campaign Must Engage Low-Attention Voters

Kerry Eleveld has some encouraging words for Democrats in his post, “The more voters know, the more they like Joe Biden at Daily Kos. As Eleveld write:

New York Times political analyst Nate Cohn made an astute observation about a new Siena poll, which showed President Joe Biden trailing Donald Trump in most battleground states….  “If there’s any consolation [for Biden], it’s that the poll is also littered with evidence that folks aren’t super tuned in, and disengaged voters remain Biden’s weakness,” Cohn tweeted.

It’s an insight that will likely define the presidential contest moving forward.

Eleveld gets down to the data:

In the survey, for example, just 29% of registered voters said they are closely following the legal cases against Donald Trump. That means that less than one-third of voters are paying “a lot of attention” to the ongoing trial of a former president who will almost assuredly be the Republican nominee in the 2024 election….Rosenberg cites a recent Ipsos poll for ABC News, where Biden trails Trump among adults, 44% to 46%, but bests him by a point among registered voters, 46% to 45%. And Biden takes a 4-point lead among likely voters, 49% to 45%. A Marist poll for NPR and PBS NewsHour made a similar finding, with Biden running just 2 points ahead of Trump with registered voters, 50% to 48%, but opening up a 5-point lead among likely voters, 51% to 46%….John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, made the same observation about voters ages 18 to 29 in the Siena battleground poll. Among registered youth voters, Biden trails Trump by 3 points, but among likely youth voters, Biden leads by 7 points—a net turnaround of 10 points in the direction of Biden….The Siena poll also included about 20% of respondents who either didn’t vote in 2020 or who did vote in 2020 but skipped the 2022 midterms….In an interview with Greg Sargent on “The Daily Blast” podcast, Biden pollster Jefrey Pollock said undecided voters make up anywhere from 10% to 15% of the electorate depending on the state, “which is actually rather large.” Those voters are disproportionately young, Black, and Latino….Pollock cited Nevada where, every two years, about 25% of the electorate consists of voters who have never before cast a ballot in an election.

The interpretation:

The ancillary to Cohn’s observation is that Biden performs better among high information, high propensity voters—or likely voters—a point veteran Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has been making for weeks now. A pattern has begun to emerge where Biden performs increasingly better as polling models move from “adults” to “registered voters” to “likely voters.”….”That’s what makes Nevada so interesting and challenging but also as movable as it is,” Pollock explained. “You’ve got these voters who don’t really pay attention to politics, who are just getting into the political scene.”….They are going to pay attention to the election much later, Pollock said. “You have to force your way into their lives,” he explained, because they are more concerned with their kids’ activities, making sure they have health care, and simply paying their bills….”We have to force them to pay attention to politics. It’s why advertising and campaigns mean so much, particularly in those closing months, because we really do have to find ways to get into those houses,” he said.

Weighed against the preponderance of data indicating Biden has a very substantial lag in the polls to reduce during the next six months, this take may seem unduly optimistic. But, as Eleveld notes in one of his concluding paragraphs, “Biden certainly has the resources and the campaign to help address that information deficit, but whether or not his campaign manages to reach and persuade those voters remains to be seen.”

Teixeira: The Students Are Revolting!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

The current wave of student demonstrations/occupations/encampments around Israel-Gaza has drawn some comparisons to the large protest wave of 1968. To be sure, there are some similarities…but also some very large and important differences.

To understand this, we need to get in the Wayback Machine and revisit the era, not just what happened, but “the vibes.” So put down your placards or that angry email you were going to write supporting or denouncing the student demonstrators and curl up with some of the best books for getting a feel for the glory and madness of 1968.

Here are some of the books I recommend.

There are couple of good general histories of SDS and the associated youth rebellion: Kirkpatrick Sale’s history—simply called SDS—and Todd Gitlin’s, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. See also: Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s for much useful context.

I’ve always had a soft spot for James Miller’s, Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago. Really excellent on the spirit of the times and the world view of student radicals.

Given the prominent role of Columbia in these protests, why not take a dive into Mark Rudd’s, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen? Rudd has had second, third, and fourth thoughts about everything he did so that adds another dimension to this fascinating memoir. See also: Robert Pardun, Prairie Radical: A Journey Through the Sixties, for more of a heartland perspective and Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement, for the perspective of an early SDS leader who watched that movement go from mass-based to self-destruction mode in just a few years.

Speaking of self-destruction, there is no better guide to the level of self-destruction the student radical left reached than Bryan Burrough’s, Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. Truly amazing levels of lunacy were reached; I think most people these days have forgotten, if they ever knew, how completely crazy things got.

And surely we must take a quick visit to the ur-events of May, 1968 in France. The spirit of those events and the student radicals who led them is well-captured in Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit’s, Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative. Be realistic: demand the impossible! (Incidentally, “Danny the Red” is still around, but now he agitates for eco-socialism as a Green politician in the European parliament.)

I hope you find your journey back to 1968 in the Wayback Machine instructive. You should be in a better position to judge whether it really is 1968 all over again. Or for that matter, whether you’d even want it to be!

An Update on Party Loyalty in Battleground Pennsylvania

The following article “Where Pennsylvania has lost Democrats since 2008, and what it means for the November election” by Kate Huangpu, is cross-posted from Spotlight PA:

HARRISBURG — For the first time in at least 16 years, the Democratic and Republican parties in Pennsylvania are within half a million registered voters of one another.

Since 2008, Democrats’ registration edge over Republicans has steadily shrunk — from a 12% advantage in April 2008 to about a 4% advantage in April 2024, according to a Spotlight PA analysis of Department of State data.

The number of people registered as independents or under a third party has also grown, from 11% of total registered voters in 2008 to 15% this year.

Political consultants who spoke with Spotlight PA said that while registration trends can signal an electorate’s moods, they can’t tell you everything about how a closely divided state like Pennsylvania will vote.

Stephen Medvic, a government professor at Franklin & Marshall College, said 2010 was a high water mark for Democratic registration in recent Pennsylvania history and that there was “nowhere to go but down” from there in terms of registration numbers.

The party’s relatively lower registration rate is “not good [for Democrats], but I’m not sure it spells doom,” said Medvic.

Beyond that, consultants say Pennsylvania has undergone a political realignment in the last decade and a half. Anne Wakabayashi, a Democratic political consultant with public relations firm BerlinRosen, said registration is “catching up more with the behavior of the electorate.”

That behavior, she said, includes working-class voters in Western Pennsylvania who have historically been part of labor unions changing their registration to Republican in recent years, coupled with an influx of highly educated and wealthy transplants establishing themselves in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Sam Chen, a GOP political consultant based in the Lehigh Valley, pointed to the same dynamic and noted that it can be seen in the commonwealth’s changing registration geography. Democrats used to dominate counties in the industrial and rural parts of the state, particularly in the southwest and northeast. Now those areas are redder, while Democrats have consolidated support in suburbs, particularly in the populous southeast.

“The Republican Party has shifted away from traditional conservativism into a more populist version of it, which speaks to traditional Democratic values like made-in-America union labor,” Chen said. “On the Democratic side, I think you see that shift away from traditional liberalism over to a little bit more of a progressivism.”

Wakabayashi noted that registration doesn’t always keep pace with quickly shifting political preferences.

In her experience, voters can be slow to change registration even as their political opinions change. Sometimes they vote across party lines, opt to split their ticket and vote for candidates in both parties, or just don’t turn out to cast a ballot.

For example, despite a dwindling advantage in the party’s number of registered voters in Pennsylvania, Democrats won top-of-ticket races for president in 2020, and U.S. Senate and governor in 2022.

However, in the latter year, Republicans Stacey Garrity and Tim DeFoor won statewide races for state treasurer and auditor general — flipping those offices.

Political consultants and academics also say the increase in independent and third-party voters is significant and could indicate a growing disdain for the major political parties and a wider apathy that results in low voter turnout, such as during the 2024 primary election.

This is particularly notable as Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with a closed primary system, which excludes independent and third-party voters from choosing which major party candidates will end up on the November general election ballot.

Some experts noted that this system could lead to fewer voters who consider themselves politically independent registering as such. Plus, voters can switch their party registration up to 10 days before the election, which they may do close to a primary so that they can participate in choosing a major party candidate, before switching back.

“As our partisans are getting increasingly more partisan, there are a lot of people that are heading to either third parties or the middle of the road,” said Wakabayashi. “Some of that is disillusionment with the parties on both sides.”

Scher: Polls Indicate Dems Gaining Traction in House Races

Excerpts from “Democrats Just Took the Lead In This Poll Average and No One Noticed” by Bill Scher at The Washington Monthly:

In last Tuesday’s newsletter, charting Joe Biden’s clearest Electoral College path, I noted his recent improvement in national and some swing state polling averages from Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight since March.

While Biden has made modest gains, he still doesn’t lead in any of those averages.

However, there is another poll average where, on April 22, Democrats took the lead for the first time in five months:

The Real Clear Politics generic congressional ballot test average.

Generic congressional ballot tests are poll questions that ask which party’s candidate you would choose to represent your congressional district.

Scher asks, “Does this mean Democrats are well-positioned to take back the House?,” and answers:

In the Real Clear Politics generic congressional ballot test average, Republicans led their widest lead of the year, 2.6 points, on March 6, just before Biden’s State of the Union address. As of May 7, Democrats now lead by 1.4 points.

A slightly less dramatic but similar story is told in the FiveThirtyEight average, with a Republican lead around 1 for most of January and February, Democrats tying at the end of February, followed by a series of tiny lead changes. As of May 1, the last reported result, Democrats are up 0.7 points.

Should Democrats feel good at all about such a small lead? Doesn’t gerrymandering favor Republicans so much that Democrats need a big polling lead—and big national popular vote lead on Election Day—to take back the House?

Not so.

Scher continues, “Back in 2021, for the Monthly, I wrote that “When Democrats won control of the House in 2018 and 2020, their share of the popular vote (53.4 percent and 50.3 percent, respectively) was roughly equal to their share of the House seats (54 percent and 51 percent, respectively).” Further,

The 2022 midterm House national popular vote also tracked the House seat share. Republicans won 50.6 percent of the popular vote and 51 percent of the seats.

Of course, a tiny lead within the margin of error six months before Election Day tells us nothing about the final outcome beyond the necessity for determined get-out-the-vote efforts.

But if Democrats maintained a 1 point polling lead, would that be enough to win the House? Or has there been systemic bias among pollsters inflating the Democratic numbers, and therefore, requiring Democrats to build up a large polling lead to ensure at least a narrow Election Day victory?

Scher notes further, “In August 2022, writing for Real Clear Politics, I observed, “In the 10 House elections for which RCP produced a generic congressional ballot average, Democrats outperformed the poll average four times.” Also,

And in the November 2022 midterm, the polling averages were darn close, with slight GOP overperformance. Republicans won the House national popular vote by 2.8 points. The Real Clear Politics generic ballot average was 2.5 and FiveThirtyEight‘s was 1.2.

Wider divergences are possible, but the widest since 2012 was in 2020, when the Democratic House popular vote margin underperformed the final Real Clear Politics average by 3.7 points. More often, the final margin is within 2 points of the poll average.

Scher concludes: “So while a 1-point margin in the generic congressional ballot test average may not be quite enough to instill confidence in the prospect of a Democratic House takeover, it certainly means Democrats are competitive with six months to go.

Teixeira: Immigration-Health Care Nexus Still Challenges Dems

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Two things are clear about the 2024 campaign at this point. One is that Biden is still trailing Trump: he’s behind nationally in both the RCP and 538 running averages, as well as in every single swing state. The other is that his two great vulnerabilities are the economy/inflation and immigration, generally the two most important issues to voters. Indeed the latter now sometimes eclipses the former in importance as it has in the Gallup poll for the last three months.

Immigration was very important in the 2016 election as well. One way David Shor frequently illustrated the dynamic in 2016 relative to 2012 was with a simple two by two table illustrating that the big swing toward Trump in 2016 was among voters who both (1) supported universal health insurance and (2) opposed “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Put simply, Obama did way better than Hillary Clinton among voters who were both populist/progressive on health care and conservative-leaning on immigration.

Could we see the same dynamic this year, with Trump making decisive gains among such voters? The basis for it certainly seems to be there. It has been widely noted that not only has the immigration issue become more salient but also that voters are now open to a wide range of tough approaches to dealing with the illegal immigration problem. Some of the relevant findings were reviewed by the Post’s Aaron Blake in an article, “Harsh deportation tools are just fine with many Americans.” And a recent Axios poll found a majority of the public supporting mass deportations of illegal immigrants, including a shocking 42 percent of Democrats.

Findings from a brand new poll of over 4,000 voters from The Liberal Patriot and Blueprint confirm this pattern of support for tough measures against illegal immigration. My analysis of the data also shows an enormous overlap between these conservative leanings on illegal immigration and strong support for populist/progressive measures on health care. These cross-pressured voters could play a decisive role in November’s election just as they did in the 2016 election.

Here is what I found:

1. The TLP/Blueprint poll tested 40 different policy ideas associated with the Biden and Trump campaigns. The strongest issues for Biden were generally proposals around health care, most of which were wildly popular. One example was, “Increase the number of prescription drugs that Medicare can negotiate the price of for seniors.” The proposal was supported by 81 percent of voters with just 6 percent opposed for a cool 75 points net support. Those who supported the proposal also supported using “existing presidential powers to stop illegal migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border” by 57 points (72-15).

2. Similarly, supporters of more Medicare price negotiation on prescription drugs also supported deputizing “the National Guard and local law enforcement to assist with rapidly removing gang members and criminals living illegally in the United States” by 46 points (67-21).

3. Nor do these Medicare price negotiation supporters blink at the idea that we should “restrict the ability of migrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum.” They support this proposal by 40 points (63-23).

4. More draconian proposals on dealing with illegal immigration also generate solid support among those favoring a stronger Medicare role on prescription drug prices. For example, these pro-Medicare populists favor the idea that we should simply, “Round up undocumented immigrants, detain, and deport them to their home countries” by 24 points (58-24).

5. The pro-Medicare populists also favor building “a full wall on the US-Mexico border” by 20 points, with 56 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed. They even think it would be a good idea to “change federal law so that drug traffickers can receive the death penalty” (55-33)!

6. A similar dynamic can be observed in some other areas of Democratic vulnerability. Among supporters of an increased Medicare role in prescription drug pricing, we also find overwhelming support for increasing “funding for police and strengthen[ing] criminal penalties for assaulting cops” (72 percent to 17 percent).

7. It is also interesting that some aspects of Democratic approaches to climate/energy issues fit this pattern. For instance, our pro-Medicare populists net oppose requiring “auto companies to sell more electric vehicles after 2030” (45-40). They also are narrowly in favor of repealing “subsidies for clean energy and electric vehicles” (41-40).

8. I also looked at another super-popular Biden health care idea, “Require pharmaceutical companies to charge American consumers the lowest price they charge consumers in foreign countries” and the related super-popular proposal, “Protect Medicare and Social Security from funding cuts or increases in the age of eligibility.” You see the exact same pattern: voters who support these populist ideas overwhelmingly want a much tougher approach to illegal immigration.

These cross-pressures then are very real, just as they were in 2016, and are undoubtedly undermining Democrats’ ability to capitalize on their immensely popular health care proposals. Could these pressures produce the kind of shift in 2024 relative to 2020 that so helped Trump in 2016? The basis is certainly there.

I looked at support/opposition to increasing the Medicare role in prescription drug pricing and support/opposition to the most popular proposal for cracking down on illegal immigration, using the president’s executive powers to directly stop illegal crossing at the southern border. I found that, comparing reported vote in 2020 to expressed vote preference today, the big shift toward Trump occurs precisely among those who both support an aggressive Medicare role in drug pricing and support using presidential powers to stop illegal border crossing.

There’s a lesson there for Democrats should they care to take it. Apparently, the idea of using Biden’s executive powers to stop illegal border crossing is under consideration at the White House, but, predictably, nothing has happened yet in the face of fierce opposition from the usual suspects. The recent decline in illegal border crossings from insanely high to merely very high (due to a crackdown in Mexico not by US authorities) may also be breeding some complacency about the issue in Biden-land despite the scathing message sent by the polls.

This seems unwise. Especially since the ace in the hole the Biden campaign was counting on— voter appreciation of the strong economy finally kicking in—may turn out to be only a deuce. Both the Michigan consumer sentiment index and the Conference Board consumer confidence index went down last month and basically have made no progress since January. Morning in America it’s not.

The Democrats would appear to need all the help they can get. The immigration-health care nexus reviewed here suggests they may be leaving votes on the table by failing to take strong action on illegal immigration. The specter of the 2016 election looms over this campaign and, like a hanging, should concentrate the mind.