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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Tell Me More About This Neither Party Party

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

John Halpin at The Liberal Patriot investigates the large swath of voters who don’t like either party. They are not happy campers!
“On the eve of the Senate passage of the Democrats’ big reconciliation bill, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), an ABC News/Ipsos tracking poll found that pluralities of Americans trusted neither party to do a better job handling taxes, inflation, and climate change—three of the major components of the IRA. Pluralities of Americans also distrusted both parties on key issues like crime and gas prices. Among unaffiliated voters, the results were even starker: Ipsos reports that nearly half of self-identified Independents say they trust neither party to do a better job handling every issue examined in the poll.”

Kamarck: Trump May Help Create ‘Large and Sustainable Democratic Majority’

Some observations from “Lessons from the 2022 Primaries – what do they tell us about America’s political parties and the midterm elections?” by Elaine Kamarck at Brookings:

The leftward movement on the Democratic side is far less dramatic than the movement to the right on the Republican side, a trend our colleagues Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein have been writing about for much of the 21stcentury….there are still a large number of Mainstream Democrats running in the Democratic primaries, and they do fairly well. In addition, there are a large number of candidates who call themselves progressives and they too do fairly well. In a finding sure to make Republican ad makers unhappy, there are very few Democratic Socialists running in Democratic primaries and they lose more than half their races. Of the 13 candidates using that label only five won, and all of those races were in very Democratic districts where the Cook Political Report rates them above D+20. The revolution appears to be losing steam.

….Conclusion. In the past decade each major political party has found itself embroiled in factional wars. But the impact on the parties has been very different. On the Republican side candidates have embraced Trump – even when he has not embraced them – and done very well in the primaries because of it.  On the Democratic side, the impact of Bernie Sanders’ revolution has been smaller, more muted, and less successful in primaries. These facts are often overlooked for two reasons. First, the Republican Party works hard to paint all Democrats as socialists who would wreck our economy, defund the police, and open our borders to everyone. Second is the inclination in the press towards what our colleague and distinguished journalist Marvin Kalb has called the “journalistic curse called bothsideism.”[4] The way this has worked in recent years is to assume symmetry – if the Republican Party is being jerked to the far right; the Democratic Party must be being jerked to the far left. As we’ve seen, there’s not much evidence to support that trend among the Democrats but plenty of evidence to support it among the Republicans.”

Some years ago, political scientists Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann popularized the notion of “asymmetric polarization” and argued that it was worse among elites such as lawmakers on the Republican side than it was among lawmakers on the Democratic side.[5] The ongoing work in the Primaries Project offers evidence that polarization is worse on the Republican side than on the Democratic side, and that moving far right is received more enthusiastically among Republican voters than moving far left is among Democratic voters.

The question this poses for the elections of 2022 and beyond is whether the Republican Party’s enthusiastic embrace of Trumpism will, at some point, go so far as to backfire and create a large and sustainable Democratic majority. Early indications are that abortion politics may be the cutting edge of this kind of overreach.

There is reason to hope we are seeing the first stirrings of such a stable congressional Democratic majority, moving into the home stretch of the 2022 midterm campaigns. Experience teaches that personality cults and extremism don’t have a long shelf life. It’s more a matter of when, than “if.”

Drew Westen: Dems Must ‘Go for the Gut” to Do Well in Midterms

Drew Westen explains “How Democrats can persuade voters to turn out at the polls” in an August 15th column at CNN Opinion:

How do you weigh a carton of eggs against a carton of freedoms? Both are on the ballot this November, and how Americans vote will be as much a function of psychology as politics.

That’s because our conscious mind is a limited tool for decision-making, in large part because it has limited “space.” Try remembering nine items you need at the store: Voters can’t possibly keep in mind every issue they care about as they cast their ballots for multiple candidates and propositions.

And how do you weigh what you feel every time you reach for a gallon of milk against what you feel about the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after a half-century, or how safe you feel sending your kids back to school this month?

As in most decision-making, much of what drives us is unconscious and emotional. Voters form associations between what they feel and what is happening around them. They “calculate” the costs and benefits of what matters to them — their interests and values — largely outside of their awareness, often in the form of “gut feelings” toward a candidate or party.

Westen, author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” and Emory University professor of psychology and psychiatry, adds that, despite Biden’s achievements “the sum of policies with approval numbers in the 60s or 70s, yields presidential ratings in the 30s. Why? Because voters aren’t consciously weighing the costs and benefits of Biden. They are associating him with the skyrocketing cost of living….Perhaps July’s downtick in inflation and the drop in gas prices will register before the midterm elections, or perhaps not. Associations change much more slowly than conscious beliefs.”

Westen warns, further, if Democrats “offer voters a laundry list of accomplishments rather than an emotionally compelling story about where the two parties plan to take the country, Republicans will take them to the cleaners in the House of Representatives, where the Democratic majority is razor thin, and in statewide races.” In addition,

Democrats can use their accomplishments to blunt voters’ economic anxiety and begin to restore hope — two of the most important emotions that drive voting. Aside from its popular provisions, the Inflation Reduction Act — if Democrats can restrain themselves from calling it “the reconciliation bill,” or a resorting to a “catchy” acronym like “IRA22” — is an emotionally evocative name that connects the dots to voters’ primary source of anxiety.

It also allows Democrats to put their opponents on the defensive by simply asking, “So why are you against reducing inflation? Most of the people we represent are pretty concerned about it.”

Westen argues that Democrats must “retain the emotional intensity” that energized the Kansas vote on abortion rights and turn up the heat on election deniers and Trump worshippers, because voters’ “polarized feelings about Trump will undoubtedly enter voters’ unconscious calculus as well.”

Westen concludes that “Voters can’t consciously report what they are unconsciously thinking and feeling. But if Democrats want to break the historical curse of first-term presidents in the midterms and the equally powerful curse of inflation, they will need to go for the gut.”

Teixeira: Grounds for Hope – and Caution – on Midterm Elections

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

Links of the Day

Here are two very solid empirically-based assessments of where we are politically as we move into the homestretch of this electoral cycle. Democrats are looking good but there are still considerable grounds for caution….

Can Democrats defy midterm gravity? Making sense of recent shifts in the national political terrain by Michael Baharaeen at substack.com

Roe fell two months ago. Here’s how much it’s hurting the GOP by David Tyler at The Washington Post.

Cook Political Report’s Wasserman Says Five House Races Move Toward Democrats

From “Cook Political Report moves five House races toward Democrats” by Emily Brooks at The Hill:

The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report on Thursday shifted its forecasts for five competitive House races in favor of Democrats.

The changes follow a spike in Democratic voter enthusiasm following the Supreme Court’s decision in June that overturned the landmark federal abortion rights protections in Roe v. Wade, Cook Political Report senior editor Dave Wasserman wrote. Democrats have outperformed expectations in every special election since the ruling.

They also also come as Republicans, some of whom predicted a potentially record “red wave” election year, have tempered expectations about the midterm elections this year.

Last week, a separate Cook Political Report analysis said Republicans still look like the favorites to win control of the House in the midterm elections. But the publication revised its forecast down from Republicans winning 15 to 30 seats to winning 10 to 20 seats.

The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman said the five ratings changes favoring Democrats include: AK-1( from “likely Republican to tossup”); AZ-4 (to “likely Democratic”); MD-6 (to “likely Democratic”); NY-4 (to “Lean Democratic”) and VA-7 (to “Lean Democratic”).

Young Women a Pivotal Constituency for Midterms

In “Will ‘Dobbs’ Drive Young People to the Polls?,” Madeline Rosenberg writes at The American Prospect:

Vote.org, a nonpartisan voting registration site, reported a roughly 1,000 percent increase in Kansas voter registrations on its site immediately following the Dobbs decision in June, as well as registration spikes of 500 percent or more in ten other states. About 81 percent of people who register on the site, where a large percentage of users are women under age 35, also turn out to vote, according to Vote.org’s Andrea Hailey.

“To see almost twice as much voter turnout compared to the prediction, I have to believe young people played a role in that,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Tufts University’s CIRCLE, which tracks youth civic education and engagement.

Though voters ages 18 to 35 comprise one of the largest voting blocs in the country, they have historically turned out in lower numbers compared to older Americans. But in a post-Roe era of abortion bans and threats to other forms of reproductive health care, including birth control and IVF, Kansas may be an indicator of what’s to come, as young people are mobilizing their peers and registering to vote in higher numbers because this issue affects them personally…A July Voters of Tomorrow poll surveying young adults ages 18 to 29 found that “the data is clear: young people fear for their future,” listing gun violence and abortion as top concerns.

It makes perfect sense that women of child-bearing age would be disproportionately energized to vote in midterms as a result of the Dobbs decision, and that their partners would agree with them. Looking towards the near future, Rosenberg outlines some of the challenges facing Democrats:

Polling that predicts young people are energized to vote ahead of the midterms comes after 2018 already saw historic youth voter turnout. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake explained that voters who cast their ballots in a midterm for the first time in 2018 are among those planning to vote again this cycle. “We just need to get all of the young people who turned out in 2018 and had no previous midterm history to vote again, and we will win,” Lake said.

There’s also time before November for campaigns and candidates to reach young people who didn’t vote in 2018. In half of the states, youth voter registration was lower in June than it was at the same point in 2018, particularly for newly eligible 18- and 19-year-olds, according to polling from Tufts CIRCLE.

….But getting people registered remains a major barrier to voting—and the subject of voter suppression efforts in some states. Since the uptick in youth voter turnout in 2018, at least 18 states have passed 30 laws that make it harder to vote, and introduced more than 400 bills that restrict voting access.

Democratic ad strategy and outreach should more energetically target this age demographic, which has now become a pivotal concern for the midterm elections. It’s important also to tailor messaging to resonate with moderate and even conservative young voters (“Republican candidates are meddling in your most personal decisions”), as well as more liberal young voters (‘choice in family planning is a central human right’).

With the Dobbs decision, Republican judicial appointees have given the Democrats a cutting edge issue that will swing some young women voters and their partners towards voting Democratic and make others stay home instead of voting Republican. Republicans will try to drown out abortion protests by hammering inflation fears — that is already underway. But Democrats must remind the public — moderates as well as liberals — that it was exclusively Republican-appointed justices, supported by Republican elected officials, who took away their family planning options and created this mess.

Teixeira: Dems’ Shifting Coalition – They Love the Highly Educated

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

They Love the Highly Educated!

Today’s Democratic party is in love! I explain at The Liberal Patriot:

“In 2022, it appears that white college graduate voters are reporting for duty once again. These voters are less sensitive to economic problems and more likely to be moved by a social issue like abortion rights, which looms large in their world view. In short, they are the perfect voters for Democrats in the current environment.

An average of the last month of public polls (where crosstabs are available) finds Democrats leading the generic ballot among white college graduates by 12 points while trailing among white working class (noncollege) voters by 25 points. Hispanic margins for the Democrats are about half what they were in the last midterm and lag behind 2020 as well, which was a relatively poor year for the Democrats among this group.

Similarly, a merge of 2022 NBC polling data finds Democrats leading the generic among white women college graduates by an astounding 27 points while getting crushed among white working class women by 22 points. Now that’s a gap.”

Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot. And subscribe!

Trump’s Future May Also Be on November Ballot, But Not in Dem Midterm Strategy

John Hudak makes the case that “November midterms are Trump’s make-or-break moment” at Brookings:

Donald Trump’s record of success in primary endorsements has been mixed, as my colleagues have written extensively about in previous posts. He has padded that record, in part, by offering last minute endorsements—or in the case of the Missouri Senate race with a vague endorsement. Some of Mr. Trump’s endorsements went to candidates who were incumbents or were widely expected to win. In other races such as for governors of Pennsylvania and Maryland and for Senate in Connecticut, Ohio and Arizona, those endorsements were important to the outcome.

Trump’s endorsement strategy is bold—to an extent never before in modern politics he has put his reputation on the line in the midterm elections. But winning primaries is only half the battle. While any politician or former elected official likes to tout a win-loss record (when it is flattering) of their endorsements, the former president faces a second and bigger battle in the general election. In some cases, his endorsements were seen as supporting less electable candidates [i.e., Doug Mastriano (PA-GOV); J.D. Vance (OH-SEN); Herschel Walker (GA-SEN); Mehmet Oz (PA-SEN); Josh Gibbs (MI-03); etc.)…Mr. Trump’s endorsement of candidates in deep red states or districts will surely pad his win-loss record. However, if Senate candidates like Walker, Oz, Vance, or Blake Masters (AZ) ultimately lose in numbers that maintains Democrats’ Senate majority, Mr. Trump will be widely blamed.

…Finally, in governor races, where Republicans could have been or should be competitive in places like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Trump’s endorsements could backfire if Democrats net a pickup in those races. The potential for Republicans to sweep Democrats across the board exists, but it may not ultimately happen, and that possibility is starting to worry Republican strategists. If Democrats hold off historic losses, and especially if they are able to maintain or even expand control in the U.S. Senate, the GOP blame game will begin.

Hudak, deputy director of Brookings Center for Effective Public Management and senior fellow, Governance Studies, adds that “Of course, surprising Democratic strength this November would not be entirely Mr. Trump’s fault. A wildly unpopular Supreme Court decision around abortion (although resultant from Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominations), a string of legislative victories, slowing inflation, and sustained job creation all work to bolster Democratic chances. But it’s a midterm and Republicans are supposed to win. If Republicans don’t win, questions about and skepticism of Mr. Trump’s political power and influence will be centerstage in GOP discussions.” Further,

If election night in November proves underwhelming for Republicans, Mr. Trump’s GOP rivals will pounce. Potential 2024 candidates like Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Liz Cheney, Nikki Haley, Larry Hogan, Greg Abbott, and Mike Pompeo are looking for any opportunity to paint the former president as weak, politically ineffective, and as yesterday’s news….If Pence-backed candidates are seen as more electable (they likely were) and Trump-backed candidates lose the general, it will be marketed as other party elders being better equipped to pick general election winners than the former president….If Trump-backed candidates push the GOP over the finish line in terms of control of the Senate and an expansion of Republican control of statewide offices, it will be hard for other Republicans to challenge the former president in his path to the nomination in 2024.

Hudak, concludes, “Donald Trump is not on any ballot in 2022, but his political future is….ultimately, the midterms will likely either make Donald Trump an also-ran or the commanding force in party politics for years to come.”

Sure, the midterm elections could make or break Trump’s future. However, if Trump’s endorsements break more or less even, it might be enough to keep his presidential aspirations annoyingly afloat for a couple of years — provided his legal problems don’t finish him off as a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, Democrats can use Trump’s endorsements against Republican candidates in midterm races where it helps and ignore it when it doesn’t. In any case, Democratic Senate, House, state and local campaign strategies should have focus and goals that don’t depend on what Trump does.

Teixeira: Hispanics a Normie Voter Challenge for Dems

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

The Democrats’ Hispanic Voter Challenge Is a Normie Voter Challenge

I explain in my latest from The Liberal Patriot:

“In retrospect, it seems clear that Democrats, in fact, seriously erred by lumping Hispanics in with “people of color” and assuming they embraced the activism around racial issues that dominated so much of the political scene in 2020, particularly in the summer. This was a flawed assumption. In reality, Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly an upwardly mobile, patriotic population with practical and down to earth concerns focused on jobs, the economy, health care, effective schools and public safety.

In short, they are normie voters, not at all a liberal voting bloc, especially on social issues, that just needs to be mobilized. This is not true about Hispanics in general and is very far from the truth among working class Hispanics, three-quarters or more of Hispanic voters. In Pew’s post-election validated voter survey, just 20 percent of these voters described themselves as liberal, while 45 percent said they were moderate and 35 percent said they were conservative.

Just how normie and not super-progressive Hispanics are as a group is well-illustrated by recent data from Echelon Insights. Take the issue of structural racism. Echelon asked respondents to choose between two statements: Racism is built into our society, including into its policies and institutions vs. Racism comes from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions.

Of course in progressive sectors of the Democratic party, which do so much to define the party’s national brand, it is an article of faith that the first statement is the correct one. Indeed, in Echelon’s “strong progressive” group—roughly 10 percent of voters—they are so very, very sure of America’s systemic racism that they endorse the first statement by an amazing 94-6 margin. But Hispanic voters disagree, endorsing the second statement that racism comes from individuals by 58-36.

That’s quite a difference. Clearly, this constituency, unlike Democratic progressives, does not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!