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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


How Educated Whites May Influence Midterm Elections

From “How the Electorate Changes from Presidential to Midterm Years: A higher share of white college graduates could help Democrats, but a decline in nonwhite voters could hurt themal Ball:” by Lakshya Jain at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

— Midterm electorates are typically whiter and more educated than presidential electorates.

— At one time, this sort of change from the presidential to the midterm electorate might have made midterm electorates worse for Democrats. But given changes in the electorate, this midterm turnout pattern may actually aid Democrats, or at least not hurt them as much as it once did.

— Minority turnout has fluctuated and is a wild card that plays a big role in determining baseline partisan leans and advantages — presidential-level turnout means Democrats enjoy the advantage, whereas dips favor Republicans.

— The outcome in key swing states whiter than the national average, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, may be influenced heavily by educational turnout differential. In states with large nonwhite cores, such as North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, minority turnout will play a more critical role.

Jain provides several interesting charts, including this one:

Figure 1: Demographics of key 2022 Senate states

Jain notes further:

Above, we show the demographic splits for several key swing states with contested Senate elections in 2022, sorted from left to right in order of the white population share per state, with the U.S. national average provided for comparison’s sake. These are the seven races that the Crystal Ballrates as either Toss-ups or just leaning one way or the other: Republicans are defending North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Democrats are defending Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

In states with lower minority populations, it is likely that the previously-noted Democratic educational advantage among whites is magnified, and that the degree of influence minority turnout has upon the electorate is relatively blunted. This may be the case in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all of which are significantly whiter than the nation as a whole. Extrapolating from past electora

tes, Democrats may begin with an electorate that is anywhere between 1-3 points more favorable than 2020 in terms of presidential lean in these states. For instance, New Hampshire, which was Biden +7.2 in 2020, could see a Biden +9 electorate, given that state’s exceptionally large share of white voters.

In contrast, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, and Georgia all have significant blocs of nonwhite voters, and it is here that the outcome of the Senate races may rely more heavily than usual on the turnout of minority groups. Arizona and Nevada, in particular, have heavy concentrations of Hispanic voters, while Georgia and North Carolina have high Black populations. If Democrats replicate their 2018 minority turnout operations in these states, they would go a long way towards avoiding another 2014-esque red wave; however, if those turnout efforts fall short, these states would become prime pickup material for Republicans.

Jain concludes:

From the analysis, we can see that midterm electorates, in general, have higher levels of four-year college attainment than the presidential electorates, which might actually help Democrats given their recent improvements with these voters. However, the volatility of minority turnout in non-presidential elections makes the overall midterm turnout advantage unclear. If nonwhite turnout stays at presidential levels, it is likely that Democrats begin with an electorate whose baseline presidential lean is more Biden-voting (in terms of 2020 presidential vote cast) than in the 2020 electorate itself, whereas if it dips in the way it did in 2014, Republicans would be advantaged on the whole.

Determining which of the pictures is more likely between 2014 and 2018 is a tall order, especially given the amount of time to go until the 2022 environment. However, whatever happens, it is clear that the midterm and presidential electorates are likely to vary significantly in composition — it is just the areas in which the change is greatest that will play a large role in deciding the electorate’s baseline lean in 2022.

While most pundits say Republicans will likely win a House majority in the 2022 midterm elections and they have a good chance in the senate as well, it’s clear that Democrats best strategy is investing resources in mobilizing turnout of nonwhite voters and educated whites.

Tomasky: Why Democratic Moderates Should Support the Reconciliation Bill

In his article, “Why Moderate House Democrats Torture Their Colleagues—and Why They’re Wrong: They’re Going to be smeared as socialists no matter what size the reconciliation bill is. The only option here is to pass the bill and play offense,” Michael Tomasky, the new editor of The New Republic makes the case for a bold strategy for Democratic moderates in the weeks ahead:

I have more sympathy than most coastal liberals for the plight of the swing-district Democratic House member. I guess that comes from being from West Virginia. I know what those places are like, and I understand the pressures that moderate Democrats can face. As I’ve written many times, it’s exactly those purple districts that Democrats have to win to get to 218 seats. Nancy Pelosi is right to keep them top of mind, because without Democrats representing districts like Iowa’s 3rd and Wisconsin’s 3rd and Arizona’s 1st and Virginia’s 7th, the Democrats are in the minority. And then the debate isn’t between $3.5 trillion and $1.5 trillion. It’s between zero and zero.

Tomasky reasons, “Swing-district moderates worry that if they vote for $3.5 trillion, they’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads. They’re not wrong. But guess what? They’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads if they vote for $1.5 trillion, too. No one should be surprised if they get attacked as socialists even if they block every dollar from being spent. That’s the nature of politics these days.” Further,

“And so midterm elections now are just like presidential elections: The same issues are at stake. Turnout may be lower, but not by much. Turnout in 2018 was almost 50 percent—the highest in a midterm since 1914. We’ll see next year if that was a one-off. I’d wager not.

What this means for moderates, I believe, is two things. First, like it or not, it’s a lot harder now to distance oneself from the national party. The whole country watches the same cable news shows. Voters know more than ever about what the parties stand for. Whatever the national party does, the local member of Congress is going to be tagged with it, for good or ill.

Second, I’d argue that there is far less benefit to distancing from the party than there used to be. There are fewer true swing voters. But there are a lot of potential base voters out there to be registered and urged to the polls. And the best way to get those people to register and vote is, without question, to be able to go to them next year and say: Look, I got you paid family leave! Dental coverage in Medicare! Free community college! Child tax credit! I voted for these things. My opponent would have opposed them.

I understand that moderates want to negotiate the number down a little, just so they can go home and say, “Hey, I negotiated it down a little.” But they have to commit to a yes vote, and then they have to go back to their states and districts and spike the damn football. They need to boast about what they voted for, show some pride, and play offense. This applies even to Manchin. He’s a special case because he’s not just in a swing state; he’s in the Trumpiest state in the country. But the people of West Virginia can make great use of the things in these bills as much as people from anywhere else. Perhaps even more so.”

Tomasky concludes, “Hopefully, moderates will cotton on to these new political realities and join a unified Democratic team. Otherwise, this is going to be four or however many weeks of torture, inflicted on the party by moderates who are operating according to a model that I believe no longer applies. Keeping the Republicans from winning the House may be a long shot. But we’ve entered a new era of hypernationalization, when distancing from one’s party is impossible and even inadvisable. The things in that bill are very popular, so pass it, and own it. It’s the Democrats’ only shot at keeping their majorities.”

Teixeira: Let’s Make a Deal!

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

Here are some interesting new data from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation gauging the popularity of 28 different aspects on the proposed reconciliation budget. All are at least somewhat popular but some are a lot more popular than others. Not all will make it into the final bill of course. Time to make a deal based on some combination of popularity and importance. And that will involve some tough choices. From Politico Playbook:

“They started off with a jaw-dropping $6 trillion price tag, then lowered it to $3.5 trillion.

Now, there’s reporting suggesting Sen. JOE MANCHIN wants the total for Democrats’ reconciliation plan to drop as low as $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion (though some people close to him say his comfort zone is probably closer to $2 trillion).

So what exactly will Democrats’ topline number be?

Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Speaker NANCY PELOSI are both proceeding as if $3.5 trillion is the magic number, at least for now. Then there’s Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), who says progressives have given enough ground already: “That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise,”

But talk to senior Democratic congressional aides and you get a more realpolitik answer — one that’s closer to Manchin than Sanders. Some predict the bill will end up at about $2 trillion, which is significantly less than even President JOE BIDEN wants.

If those aides are right — and there’s reason to think they might be, given how much leverage Manchin has — that means a whole host of items on the party’s wish list will have to be scaled back dramatically or dropped.

The posturing over the price tag is a reminder of how much work the party has to do as it seeks to craft their behemoth bill by the end of September. The process will kick off in earnest today as the House Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees begin marking up their proposals.

Already, there are tensions over the issues being voted on in committee today. For example, we’re told the $762 billion envisioned for education — which includes more than $450 billion for child care and universal pre-K, and hundreds of billions more for school infrastructure and free community college — won’t likely make it to the White House intact. (Our higher ed reporter Michael Stratford has more on Education and Labor Chair BOBBY SCOTT’s bill.)

Likewise, a battle for limited resources is driving the fight over which health care proposals to include, pitting the House against the Senate and White House. (Read Heather Caygle and Alice Miranda Ollstein here for the latest.)

Of course, the dollar total will be dictated by how much Democrats can generate with tax hikes and other revenue raisers — a huge area of contention itself. Democrats could find themselves with between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in revenue depending on how much they scale back the Trump tax cuts. They’ll also net a large chunk of change from the prescription drug overhaul, though they’re sparring over details of that plan as well.

After that, the real fight will commence: How to spend the money . Pelosi acknowledged the coming battles over limited dollars: “Where would you cut? Child care? Family medical leave paid for? Universal pre-K? Home health care?”

As two senior Democratic sources put it to us recently, the more Manchin talks, the better. Right now, most negotiations are taking place between House and Senate leadership and the White House. But the real veto power lies with Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.). So the more they communicate about what they will or won’t accept, the better, per these aides: It will force Democrats to come to grips with reality of having too few dollars to do what they want — and start having the tough conversations they’ve only begun to broach.”

Trying to think this through in a productive manner would be more useful than incessant denunciations of Joe Manchin, over whom the left has zero leverage. $3.5 trillion is a pipe dream. Time to get real.

Galston: In Marking 9/11, the U.S. Must Refocus on Protecting Our Domestic and Global Interests

As the nation prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attack on America, most of the media coverage will address the tremendous human costs of the 9/11 atrocity and the U.S. response to it. In one section of his Brookings article, “How America’s response to 9/11 contributed to our national decline,” William A. Galston also summarized the economic and political costs of America’s longest war:

The opportunity costs of our post-9/11 policy choices have been enormous. Since 2001, the United States has spent about $2 trillion in direct warfighting costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. One estimate places the total cost at $4 trillion, not counting the “long tail” outlays for treating the physical and mental damage these wars have inflicted on thousands of the best men and women our country has to offer.

It would be naïve to suggest that all this money would otherwise have been put to productive use in domestic public policy or the private sector. But one thing is clear: During years of fiscal restraints on discretionary spending during the past decade, our wars in the Middle East received funding from accounts to which the official budget limits did not apply.

Because domestic policy had no such safety valve, important government functions suffered, including the emergency health stockpile that was all but empty when we needed it the most in the early months of the pandemic.  At the same time, our failure to raise taxes to fund our post-9/11 military engagements wars guaranteed steady upward pressure on the national debt. A more measured response to the attack on our homeland would have made us stronger at home, with no loss of security. This alternative course, moreover, would have given the Department of Defense more bandwidth to focus on the military modernization needed to counter the great-power threats we now face.

Galston is critical of “manner of our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” but concludes that “we cannot afford to squander our energy in endless “Who lost Kabul?” debates. We should close the book on the 9/11 era, confine our policies in the Middle East to defending our friends and our essential interests, and focus instead on the task before us—doing what is necessary at home and abroad to arrest our decline and remain fully competitive in the struggle to define world order in the 21st century.”

Schor: Why Dems Must Rebrand to Include Working-Class

Freddie Sayers interviews political analyst David Schor at unherd.com. Schor shares several insights about what is keeping the Democratic Party from achieving a working majority, including:

College educated people have taken over the branding and issue prioritisation of the Democratic Party, at the expense of working class white people who were in the party and working class non-white people who are in the party, and that’s driving people away. That’s really dangerous. Because in the Democratic Party, if you don’t have non-white conservatives, and you’re just a party of educated, white liberals, that gets you to 25%-30% of the vote….White people with a college degree who are under the age of 34 are less than 5% of the electorate, but they are literally a majority of people who work in politics…so I think it’s very easy for us to develop an inflated sense of how progressive the electorate is or how much people share our values.

Shor has more to say about what Democrats should do to win a stable majority. Here is the rest of the interview:

Teixeira: Coronavirus + Economic Sputtering = Big Trouble

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

Afghanistan is in the news and may indeed contribute to Biden and the Democrats’ current poor showing in the polls. But the story that the country has veered off track was already there and in all likelihood Afghanistan-related troubles are simply building on that rather than creating a new story.

Check out the chart below from Morning Consult showing coronavirus case trends vs. consumer confidence. That’s what I call a clear relationship. The coronavirus surge has take a huge toll on what Democrats’ were hoping, not unreasonably, would be a “morning in America” situation with a roaring return to social and economic normality. No more, at least not now.

And there’s this from a very useful recent Times report on the uneven nature of current economic performance:

“[T]he recovery remains uneven and rattled by a rare set of economic crosswinds. In some sectors, consumer demand remains depressed. In others, spending is high but supply constraints — whether for materials or workers or both — are pushing up prices.

For instance, the construction sector has regained most of the jobs lost early in the pandemic, and other industries, such as warehousing, have actually grown. But restaurants and hotels still employ millions fewer people than they did in February 2020. The result: There are more college graduates working in the United States today than when the pandemic began, but five million fewer workers without a college degree.

Compounding the problem, employment in the biggest cities fell further than in smaller cities and rural areas, and it has rebounded more slowly. Employment among workers without a college degree living in the biggest cities is down more than 5 percent since February 2020, compared with about 2 percent for workers without a college degree in other parts of the country.”

As I have repeatedly noted, the Democrats have very serious ongoing problems with working class voters. This is not going to help.

Dems Must Face New Realities Regarding Filibuster Reform, Supreme Court

From “Democrats rush to find strategy to counter Texas abortion law” by Hugo Lowell at The Guardian:

Seizing on the Texas decision, liberal Democrats have also called anew for an expansion of the supreme court from nine to 13 seats, which would enable Biden to appoint four liberal-leaning justices to shift the politics on the bench.

The legislative response is aimed at reversing more than 500 restrictions introduced by Republican state legislatures in recent months and “trigger laws” that would automatically outlaw abortions if the supreme court overturned its ruling in the landmark Roe v Wade case that was supposed to cement abortion rights in the US.

But while such protections are almost certain to be straightforwardly approved by the Democratic-controlled House, all of the proposals face a steep uphill climb in the face of sustained Republican opposition and a filibuster in the 50-50 Senate.

The Senate filibuster rule – a procedural tactic that requires a supermajority to pass most bills – was in part why the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, focused on stacking the supreme court with conservative justices rather than pursue legislation to enact abortion restrictions at a federal level.

Forty-eight Democrats currently sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate. Two Republicans – Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – have previously indicated support for abortion rights, but the numbers fall far short of the 60-vote threshold required to avoid a filibuster.

Against that backdrop, a majority of Senate Democrats have called for eliminating the filibuster entirely. But reforming the filibuster requires the support of all Democrats in the Senate, and conservative Democratic senators including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema are outspoken supporters of the rule.

The broad concern demonstrates how urgent the issue has become for Democrats, and with the Texas law in effect after the failure of the emergency stay, many reproductive rights advocates worry that Democrats will be unable to meet the moment with meaningful action.

The heat is on Republican Senators Murkowski and especially Collins for her repeated assertions that Justice Kavanaugh would defend the settled law of Roe v. Wade. Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema have stated their opposition to filibuster reform, but U.S. political history is littered with examples of politicians who reversed or walked back earlier positions to more realistic compromises.

The Texas decision ought to be a game-changer in terms of mobilizing moderate women of both parties. The other alternative is a Democratic upset in the 2022 midterm elections, including a pick-up of 2 or 3 U.S. Senate seats, which would make Manchin’s and Sinema’s filibuster positions of less consequence.

Meanwhile, Democrats must adjust to the sobering reality that ‘the Roberts Court‘ is now history and brace for more partisan Supreme Court decisions going forward.

Josh Marshall: Putting Biden/Dems Political Moment in Perspective

At Talking Points Memo, Editor Josh Marshall puts the current political moment, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fate of the infrastructure package and Biden’s agenda in political perspective. “What is really important,” Marshall writes, “is that Democrats are looking at a window of six to eight weeks which will decide the fate of the President’s fiscal, infrastructure and climate agenda. That is September and October basically and whether we’ll end this window with the two conjoined bills in something like their current or proposed form on the President’s desk.”

Marshall adds, “The mechanics of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan really shouldn’t have anything to do whether we pass critical climate legislation or refundable child tax credits. But it has a lot to do with it. Elected officials want to stay close to a popular President and show independence from a less popular one. And we are going into a period in which the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will need to keep literally every Democratic Senator on the same page and all but three Reps in the House. It’s not a great time for the President to look weak or getting beat up politically. But here we are.”

Looking ahead, Marshall writes,

So what’s to be done? Well, that really depends on who you are and where you are. But clarity is helpful. There’s a good chance Democrats will lose unified control of Congress – and thus the ability to pass legislation – next year no matter what they do. Realizing that can actually be a bit liberating since it allows you to focus on passing as much important legislation as possible without too much distraction of calibrating it for political protection. If you get the critical legislation passed the consequences of losing congressional control are significantly reduced. After all, Democrats will have at least two years with a Democratic President after the 2022 elections. Of course, what is added to this, what is clarifying is that Democrats political prospects are almost certainly bettered by passing the President’s agenda. But even if they weren’t it would be the wisest course. Substance and political self-interest both point in the same direction.

What it all comes down to is that the President’s approval numbers don’t terribly matter. As a political matter, the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t matter that much. All that really matters is passing the President’s agenda over the next two months. Passing critical legislation is why you elect people in the first place. And passing big legislation builds political power.

The power to accomplish all this is 100% in Democrats hands right now. They just have to stick together to get it done. They need to keep stragglers from straying. The public gloom over COVID not being over makes that harder. The situation in Afghanistan makes that harder. But getting that central, critical task done is really all that matters.

Put another way, Democrats must stay pro-active, and not let the Republicans drive the debate. Hold the GOP accountable for their dangerous policies and corruption, but don’t let them dominate media coverage. In the months ahead, Dems must reject internecine sniping, and demonstrate an impressive level of unified message discipline. Show swing voters who is in charge, when it comes to passing popular reforms and moving America forward.

Teixeira: Understanding the Distinctiveness of Hispanic Experience

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

The use of the term “people of color” frequently obscures more than it clarifies since it is typically used to imply a unity of experience, particularly disadvantaging experience, among all nonwhites. The inclusion of Asians already makes little sense when you compare the socioeconomic outcomes of Asians to whites, where the former are generally superior.

But it is also the case that conflating the experiences of “black and brown”, a common locution among progressives, is also misleading. In fact, one needs to understand the distinctiveness of Hispanic experience in today’s America to have a prayer of understanding recent political trends among this population and what they may portend for the future.

Start with economic outcomes. Noah Smith wrote in a very interesting recent substack post:

“The boom of 2014-2019 — and it was a boom, even though we kind of ignored it — was good for everyone, but in percentage terms it was especially good for Hispanics….In fact, despite some claims to the contrary, Hispanic upward mobility has been a fact of American life for a long time now. My favorite paper on this is Chetty, Hendren, Jones & Porter (2018), which assessed mobility across generations. They found:

“We study the sources of racial and ethnic disparities in income using de-identified longitudinal data covering nearly the entire U.S. population from 1989-2015….[T]he intergenerational persistence of disparities varies substantially across racial groups. For example, Hispanic Americans are moving up significantly in the income distribution across generations because they have relatively high rates of intergenerational income mobility…

Hispanic Americans are moving up significantly in the income distribution across generations. For example, a model of intergenerational mobility analogous to Becker and Tomes (1979) predicts that the gap will shrink from the 22 percentile difference between Hispanic and white parents observed in our sample…to 6 percentiles in steady state…

Hispanics are on an upward trajectory across generations and may close most of the gap between their incomes and those of whites…Their low levels of income at present thus appear to to be primarily due to transitory factors.”

Smith goes on to note that two-thirds of Hispanics believe they are better off than their parents were at similar ages and calls attention to data showing a spike in Hispanic college attendance over the last 15 years and precipitous decline in the level of high school dropouts among this population. Perhaps even more interesting is the experience of Hispanics with the criminal justice system. It helps elucidate why Hispanics were not so caught up in the “racial reckoning” after the police killing of George Floyd and were actively turned off by the morphing of the BLM protests into calls to defund the police.

Here is some very interesting data and analysis from a post by Keith Humphreys on Matt Yglesias’ substack:

“An otherwise dull new government report on incarceration contains a startling fact: Hispanics are slightly less likely to be jailed than whites. It’s one of multiple unappreciated signs of fading disparities between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites in the criminal justice system, a phenomenon with substantial implications both for the future of reform and electoral politics….

This isn’t just about city and county jails. A Council on Criminal Justice analysis found that in 2000, the rate of being on probation was 1.6 times higher and the rate of being parole was 3.6 times higher for Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites. But by 2016, the probation disparity had disappeared and the parole disparity had shrunk by 85%. Hispanics still faced a 60% higher risk of being incarcerated in a state prison.

This is an enormous and worrying disparity, but the Council noted that it decreased by 60% since 2000. African-American and white disparities in parole, probation, jail, and incarceration have also declined in this century, but dwarf those that remain between Hispanics and whites….

Parallel changes appear in who the criminal justice system employs. From 1997 to 2016, the proportion of police officers who were African-American was stable, whereas the proportion who were Hispanic increased 61%. This helps explain why a June 2021 Gallup poll found that the proportion of Hispanics expressing “a lot” or “a great deal” of trust in police was 49%, almost as high as whites (56%), and far greater than that of African-Americans (27%). Hispanic views on policing and crime may also be similar to whites because the two groups rate of being violent crime victims is almost identical (21.3 per thousand persons for Hispanics, 21.0 for whites)…

[P]oliticians and activists should not assume that anti-police rhetoric will resonate with Hispanic voters, particularly in communities with heavily Hispanic police forces. Democrats’ weak performance with Latino voters (not just Cubans) in Miami-Dade County in 2020 stopped President Biden from winning the state and knocked two Democratic Members of Congress out of office. And while Trump’s Hispanic gains in other states do not appear to have been decisive, it’s easy to imagine these trends mattering in upcoming Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, and elsewhere….

[A]ll social movements contain the seeds of their own demise because if they succeed, their members are satisfied and begin drifting away. Reduced involvement in the correctional system and rising employment by and trust in police represent progress for Hispanics and should be celebrated; yet they also may lower the willingness of some Hispanics to get engaged with the criminal justice reform movement the country needs. This is not inevitable if reformers are willing to modify their rallying cry.

Currently, many advocates, academics, journalists, and politicians invoke the putatively unified “Black and Brown” experience of the criminal justice system as a rationale and engine for reform. The power of this messaging will wane as Brown experience becomes more like white experience. A different framing that might keep Hispanics at the barricades — as well as draw in many whites — would be to emphasize how the country’s extraordinarily high level of incarceration and community supervision per se harms all racial and ethnic groups.

Having over 6.3 million adults incarcerated or on probation or parole at any given time is a massive drain on American liberty, health, and finances, and is as likely to increase crime as reduce it. The message reformers can and should sell is that even if all racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system disappeared tomorrow, shrinking the correctional system to a rational size would benefit all of America’s diverse communities.”

This is exactly right. Taking into account the distinctiveness of Hispanic experience leads directly to this kind of political approach. We shall see if progressives and activists are willing to adjust their current approach in this direction.

Biden’s Agenda Popular, But Midterm Apathy a Formidable Obstacle for Dems

Adam Wollner has a warning for Democrats in his article, “Democrats are trying to sell Biden’s agenda. But key voters aren’t paying attention” at McClatchy:

“What we find is people are checking out at record high levels because they feel everything is contentious, exhausting and divisive,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster who worked on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. “It speaks to what a steep hill we’re climbing.”

Lake said she is seeing lingering political fatigue particularly among swing women voters and irregular Democratic-leaning voters, including younger and Black Americans, groups that were critical to Biden’s 2020 victory.

She said the degree to which these voters are now intentionally checking out of politics is a “brand new phenomenon” that is presenting unique hurdles for Democrats. The party is planning to make Biden’s economic agenda a cornerstone of its campaign to maintain control of the U.S. House and Senate next year.

“We know how to deal with benign neglect,” Lake said. “But now with a more deliberate strategy, when we need people to feel engaged, it is much more dangerous.”

Wollner notes, further, “And on top of a general disillusionment with politics, Americans across the board are still navigating a disruptive pandemic that has continued to overshadow most other political issues….“People are trying to sort out their own lives rather than sort out the nation’s business, and that makes it much tougher to move an agenda forward,” said longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “It’s not so much the administration is making mistakes as it is the sign of the times.” Also,
Even though the midterm elections are more than 14 months away, Democrats say they need to shore up public support for Biden’s agenda now to avoid the losses the party in power have historically experienced in a president’s first term.

Some of that effort is already underway. The Biden-aligned nonprofit group Building Back Together is spending $10 million on ads this summer promoting the president’s agenda, and the party’s campaign committees encouraged lawmakers to focus on economic policies during the August recess. Democrats hope Biden will be able to sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure and $3.5 trillion budget packages Congress is currently considering into law this fall.

While the party is struggling to reach some voters with their early messaging, Democrats are confident that Biden’s agenda is popular. For instance, a new polling memo from the Democratic-aligned nonprofit group Future Majority and shared with McClatchy showed that 57% of voters across 37 battleground congressional districts support the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Among undecided independents, 63% support it.

Wollner adds, “Democrats are hopeful their economic pitch will be persuasive for swing and progressive voters alike. But for young and Black voters, who are traditionally less likely to vote in midterm elections, some strategists warn the party needs to do more to ensure they turn out in 2022.”