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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Political Strategy Notes

From Thomas B. Edsall’s column, “Biden Wants No Part of the Culture War the G.O.P. Loves: The generosity of his $1.9 trillion relief bill has the added benefit of shifting attention where he wants it” at The New York Times: “The Biden administration appears to have adopted a two-pronged strategy to reduce the corrosive impact of hot-button social, cultural and racial issues: first by inundating the electorate with a flood of cash via the $1.9 trillion Covid relief act and second by refusing to engage fractious issues in public, calculating that deprived of oxygen, their strength will fade….The sheer magnitude of the funds released by the American Rescue Plan, the White House is gambling, will shift voters’ attention away from controversies over Dr. Seuss, who can use which bathroom and critical race theory. So far, the strategy is working….Biden has a favorability rating of 52.9 to 41.9, according to the Real Clear Politics average of the seven most recent surveys, and a Pew Research poll the first week of March found that a decisive majority of voters, at 70-28 percent, have a positive opinion of the Covid stimulus bill….“Taking their cues from a new president who steadfastly refuses to engage with or react to cultural provocations,” Democratic officeholders “have mostly kept their heads down and focused on passing legislation,” The Week’s Damon Linker wrote in “Will the G.O.P.’s culture war gambit blow up in its face?

Edsall continues, “Stanley Feldman, a political scientist at Stony Brook University, noted in an email that he thinks that “Biden understands that it’s to the Democrats’ advantage to lower the volume on the culture wars. The Covid rescue bill is a clear attempt to change political discourse back to economic issues and to provide broad-based, tangible assistance to a large part of the public. Biden signs executive orders on gender but there’s little discussion of this.”….Biden’s approach, Feldman continued, “is clearly putting many conservatives in a difficult position as they try to counter with stories about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.”….Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster with decades of experience in federal and state elections, is optimistic about Biden’s current prospects, but he warned that the administration will have to gain control of immigration: “The border matters,” he said, “and Republicans will use images from the border to sear into people’s consciousness. It is very important that they” — the Democrats — “are soon seen to be managing the border and immigration.”….Biden and other Democrats, in Greenberg’s view, should “ignore cancel culture attacks” while making the case “that Democrats are fighting and delivering for the working class and it is Democrats you can trust to have a strong economy.”

Russo: The Myth of the Conservative Working Class

The following article by John Russo, of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Rush Limbaugh, who passed away last month at age 70, was conservative talk radio’s most flamboyant and influential provocateur. Boasting an audience of 15 million, Limbaugh is often credited with persuading working-class voters to embrace a Republican Party whose pro-business, free trade economic policies went against working-class interests. As Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, explained, “Limbaugh was on the forefront of trying to take conservative policies and explain them in a way that appeals to a demographic that typically would not favor the Republican Party.” The result, Wagner suggests, can be seen in “the strength of the Republican party has among working-class Americans.”

But is it really true that Limbaugh, who could be misogynistic and racially inflammatory in his broadcast, appealed primarily to the working class? In fact, as Rick Perlstein has suggested, Limbaugh’s listeners are more aptly described as “the petty bourgeoisie, the Joe the Plumbers, the guys with their own bathroom fixture businesses, the middle managers.”

This case of mistaken identity, of misidentifying people who are actually quite comfortable as “working class,” has plagued coverage of American conservatism for years now. It was a crucial error in how people viewed the participants in the Capitol insurrection. Many of those arrested after the January 6 riot were middle-class business owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists and accountants. So why do so many assume that the rioters—and former President Trump’s supporters more generally—were working-class? We can trace the error back to its grain of truth: the economic displacement that explains why white working-class people are so angry.

Teixeira: Two, Three, Many Joe Manchins….

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

I like to think that if Che was with us today that would be his uncompromising cry. Well, maybe not. Anyway, people really love to complain about Joe Manchin. But the ineluctable fact is that the Democrats would be two slices of hot buttered toast without him. So rather than complain about Manchin, which won’t do any good anyway, people on the center-left should be thinking hard, really hard, about how we can get *more* Joe Manchins.

The road to sustainable progressive governance lies through an expanded Democratic Senate majority. No substitutes.

Fanciful proposals to abolish the Senate or air-drop a bunch of lefty states into the Senate are not serious proposals. Progressives who do not have plausible ideas about how Democrats can capture Senate seats in redish states like IA, OH, NC, TX and FL are kidding themselves that they have a viable political strategy for the actually-existing United States, as opposed to some mythical country of their imagination.

David Leonhardt nails it in his column this morning, which includes this fantastic graphic, which smart Democrats should affix to a wall near their computer. And look at carefully before they fire off their latest tweet denouncing Joe Manchin.

“The structure of the Senate has not always favored Republicans. But in recent decades, heavily white and rural communities have moved to the political right. Because these communities dominate many small states, and because small states enjoy a lot of power in the Senate, it now has a large pro-Republican bias.

So how have Democrats nonetheless won control of the Senate, allowing them to pass an ambitious bill last week that will reduce poverty, lift middle-class incomes, cut the cost of health insurance and more? There are two main answers.

First, the Democratic Party has been the more popular political party nationwide for most of the past three decades, and this national edge sometimes allows it to overcome the Senate’s built-in bias. Last year, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.4 percentage points. That was enough for him to win exactly half of the country’s 50 states and for Democratic Senate candidates to flip seats in Arizona and Georgia.

The second answer is more succinct: Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.

Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, have managed a remarkable feat in today’s polarized political atmosphere. They have won elections in states that usually vote by wide margins for the other party. The only other current politician with a similar track record is Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine….

Without him, there would be no Democratic Senate right now and no $1.9 trillion virus relief law. It’s unclear how many of Biden’s cabinet nominees would have been defeated and how successful the president would be at putting federal judges on the bench….

Few things in American politics are as valuable to a party as people like Manchin, Tester and Collins. And finding more such politicians is even more important to the Democratic Party because of the Senate’s pro-Republican bias.

As Matthew Yglesias writes in his Substack newsletter, addressing progressives: “If you don’t want your governing agenda perpetually held hostage to Joe Manchin (or for a majority to be out of reach if Manchin retires in 2024), then you need to win Senate races in right-of-center states like Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Florida that just aren’t as right-wing as West Virginia.”

Dems Address Decline in Support by Voters of Color

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edsall explores the reasons why “Democrats Are Anxious About 2022 — and 2024,” and writes, “In the wake of the 2020 election, Democratic strategists are worried — very worried — about the future of the Hispanic vote. One in 10 Latinos who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 switched to Donald Trump in 2020.” Edsall notes further,

Public Opinion Strategies, which conducts surveys for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, provided me with data on presidential voting from 2012 to 2020 that show significant Republican gains among the roughly 30 percent of Black and Hispanic voters who self-identify as conservative.

From 2012 to 2020, Black conservatives shifted from voting 88-7 for the Democratic candidate to 76-17. Black conservative allegiance to the Democratic Party fell by less, from 75 percent Democratic, 9 percent Republican to 71 percent Democratic, 16 percent Republican.

The changes in voting and partisan allegiance, however, were significantly larger for self-identified Hispanic conservatives. Their presidential vote went from 49-39 Democratic in 2012 to 67-27 Republican in 2020. Their partisan allegiance over the same period went from 50-37 Democratic to 59-22 Republican.

It’s not only Latino voters, as Edsall explains:

The 2020 expansion of Republican voting among Hispanics and Asian-Americans — and to a lesser extent among African-Americans — deeply concerns the politicians and strategists seeking to maintain Democratic control of the House and Senate in 2022, not the mention the White House in 2024.

The defection of Hispanic voters, together with an approximately 3 point drop in Black support for Joe Biden compared with Hillary Clinton, threatens a pillar of Democratic competitive strength, especially among Black men: sustained high margins of victory among minority voters whose share of the population is enlarging steadily.

Edsall goes on to probe what political opinion data shows regarding racial self-identification and differences by age among voters of color and he writes, “The increased level of support for the Republican Party among minority voters has raised the possibility that the cultural agenda pressed by another expanding and influential Democratic constituency — well-educated, young activists with strongly progressive views — is at loggerheads with the socially conservative beliefs of many older minority voters — although liberal economic policies remain popular with both cohorts. This social and cultural mismatch, according to some observers, is driving a number of minority voters into the opposition party.”

Although even a modest decline of support for Democrats among these voters is cause for concern, the overwhelming majority of voters of color supported Biden and Democratic candidates for senate and congress in 2020 and 2021. If Biden’s covid relief package leads to a solid recovery, Democrats will have reason to hope for an uptick in their support in 2022 and 2024. If the Biden administration is able to secure significant reductions in their unemployment rates, Democrats could do even better.

Teixeira: The Empirical Case Against Cultural Leftism in the Democratic Party

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

The Empirical Case Against Cultural Leftism in the Democratic Party.

It’s a strong case and I summarize it in my latest post for The Liberal Patriot, which draws on David Shor’s recent interview in New York Magazine.

“The good news is that the Democrats control all three branches of the federal government and appear competent enough to successfully contain the covid pandemic and unified enough to do the legislative necessary to get the economy running on all cylinders, possibly moving into outright boom territory. That’ll be great for the country and should be good for the Democrats as the party presiding over the country’s turnaround.

The bad news is that the Democrats still face a daunting situation, even if these developments pan out. Despite running against an historically unpopular President embroiled in twin health and economic crises, Biden’s victory was much narrower than expected, accompanied by a reduced majority in the House, poor Senate results that were only redeemed by the Georgia runoffs and losses in state legislative elections when Democrats desperately needed gains to protect themselves in the redistricting process.

Moreover, with control of both the House and the Senate are on a razor’s edge, they will shortly confront the administration’s first midterm elections which are typically very tough for the incumbent President’s party. Even with the goodwill generated be a successful first two years, 2022 will be a daunting challenge.

This underscores the necessity of understanding how the Democrats fell short in 2020 and what can be done to maximize Democratic votes in the future. They simply can’t afford underperformance if they hope to hold power and continue to move the country in a progressive direction.

With data from voter files starting to come in and precinct returns having been ever more elaborately analyzed, the contours of Democratic underperformance and its probable causes are starting to emerge. The findings make clear that Democratic chances are undercut by cultural leftism but can be at least partially remedied by moving to the center on cultural issues and emphasizing economic issues that have broad appeal across working class constituencies.”

Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot! Democrats ignore Shor’s findings at their peril.

Biden’s Statement on Union Election for Amazon’s AL Workers

Many presidential candidates and Democratic presidents have often made statements supporting labor unions. But no president has spoken out so compellingly in support of a fair union election, as has President Biden. Some excerpts from his unprecedented video statement supporting a fair union election for Amazon workers in Alabama:

Biden’s statement should be understood as a promise that any attempt to violate worker rights in the Amazon employee’s union election, and perhaps other union elections, will be held accountable by law – a profound departure from the practice of the previous administration.

According to CBS News:

Thousands of workers at an Amazon warehouse outside of Birmingham are voting on whether to form the company’s first labor union in the U.S. Amazon is pushing employees to vote no.

In an unprecedented video message, the president urged management to back off and let workers decide.

“The choice to join a union is up to the workers, full stop,” Mr. Biden said in the two-minute video.

Many Democrats are pro-union, but as CBS News’ Nancy Cordes reports, what made Mr. Biden’s video so surprising was that he did it to draw attention to the union fight.

Singling out the state by name, Mr. Biden told Americans, “Workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace.”

The Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama employs about 6,000 employees who are voting on whether to unionize — a bitter battle playing out at a time when the company is hiring thousands of workers every month.

“Amazon doesn’t treat their employees like people. We’re treated like we’re robots,” said warehouse employee Jennifer Bates.

Workers like Bates are constantly getting texts from Amazon, warning that union dues could leave them with less money than they already have….Anti-union flyers are even posted inside warehouse bathroom stalls.

“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” the president said in his address….As he said in November 2020, days after winning the election, “I made it clear to the corporate leaders — I said, ‘I want you to know I’m a union guy.'”

Amazon’s resistance to unions is hard to accept in light of it’s prosperity during the pandemic. In 2020, the company enjoyed  “38 per cent more sales and a profit increase of no less than 84 per cent.”

Union leaders cheered Biden’s statement. “For the workers at the warehouse in Alabama, there is no question that President Biden was speaking to them,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The importance of the video is that it’s telling workers that no matter how much your employer is trying to intimidate you, no matter how powerful your employer may be, the President of the United States has your back.”

Teixeira: Can Biden’s Economic Strategy End Reaganomics?

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

Could Biden Be the New Reagan?

Obama said he wanted to do this too, in the sense of supplanting the Reagan economic paradigm by a new paradigm that would do to Reaganomics what Reaganomics did to the New Deal. He didn’t get there. Could Biden? Richard North Patterson thinks so and explains how/why in an excellent article on The Bulwark. I agree it’s a live possibility and one that progressives should exert all their efforts to supporting. If we get there, so many, many other things become possible.

“On Tuesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers that “the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain”—while minimizing the risks of inflation. Moreover, our unemployment statistics ignore people who have stopped looking for work, as many Americans rendered jobless by the pandemic have; if they are included in the total, the unemployment rate rises to a dispiriting 10 percent or higher.

Given all this, Biden refuses to cut his plan. To circumvent GOP opposition, he is using the budget reconciliation process which requires a mere majority in the Senate—meaning every Democrat plus Vice President Kamala Harris…..

Most likely, Biden will sign his proposal into law by mid-March—a major legislative victory which sets the template for his presidency.
But this is a mere down payment on his ultimate ambition: supplanting Reagan’s paradigm with his own.

His team envisions spending up to $3 trillion on a program which, as spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it, “will make historic investments in infrastructure—in the auto industry, in transit, in the power sector—creating millions of good union jobs [while] addressing the climate crisis head on.” His goal evokes the New Deal: creating a more resilient and inclusive economy through federal intervention financed by higher taxes on the wealthy.

Such a sweeping agenda will alienate Republicans and unnerve moderate Democrats. But, among other things, it is aimed at a problem which upended bipartisan support for free trade, and provoked Trump’s ill-considered tariff wars: the loss of American jobs through globalization—including to China.

In a penetrating article for the New York Times, Noam Scheiber describes its genesis: Biden’s desire to create stable jobs which would not require blue-collar workers to relocate their families or undertake extensive retraining. One focus is government investment in electric vehicles whose components could be manufactured in America—providing employment, addressing the climate crisis, and strengthening green energy innovation.

Such “industrial policy”—government intervention to fortify selected industries—has long been debated by economists and derided by conservatives. One effort during the Obama years, the failed solar panel company Solyndra, became a notorious example of federal fecklessness.

But, Scheiber notes, recent studies of governmental support for Chinese industries suggests enduring successes. If our archrival can strengthen its domestic manufacturers at our expense, the argument goes, why can’t we?

Between 2001 and 2007, Scheiber writes, America lost 3 million manufacturing jobs—most likely the result of our free trade policies toward China. Some prominent Republicans—Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney—have become particularly vocal about China’s predatory practices and economic sway. Even Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, for years a dedicated free trader, acknowledges the need to protect American workers from the downside of globalism.

This may create some space for bipartisan agreement. The potential for job creation underwritten by government is considerable: making electric parts; building or upgrading manufacturing facilities; creating and installing chargers. Economic nationalism is no longer brain-dead protectionism, but a potential strategy for spreading prosperity.

Certainly, it’s past time to rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen our broadband capacity, and protect our energy grid from calamity. To do otherwise means abandoning a first world economy.

No doubt Biden won’t get all he wants; likely he will have to advance his goals through piecemeal legislation, or through the budget reconciliation process, which carries other risks. But in challenging times, average Americans are far more concerned with their families and their futures than the nostrums of limited government.”

Political Strategy Notes

Some key points from “Assessing the Impact of Absentee Voting on Turnout and Democratic Vote Margin in 2020” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “While the 2020 presidential election saw a record volume of absentee votes cast, not all states made it equally accessible….Eased absentee voting rules contributed to higher voter participation rates….With higher turnout, President Joe Biden’s performance still tracked closely with Hillary Clinton’s state-by-state results in 2016 — he just performed slightly better across the board….All told, the sharp increase in absentee voting in 2020 wasn’t disproportionately beneficial to either presidential candidate.” Further, “The evidence presented in this study leads to two clear conclusions. First, the dramatic increase in absentee voting in 2020 contributed to increased voter turnout. Even after controlling for 2016 turnout and swing state status, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state was a significant predictor of turnout in 2020. Eased absentee voting rules were not the only reason for increased turnout in 2020, but they did make a difference. Second, increased absentee voting did not favor Joe Biden’s candidacy. After controlling for 2016 Democratic vote margin, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state had no effect at all on 2020 Democratic vote margin. These findings suggest that efforts by Republican legislators in a number of states to roll back eased absentee voting rules and make it more difficult for voters to take advantage of absentee voting in the future are unlikely to benefit GOP candidates. Not only is there no evidence that absentee voting leads to widespread fraud, there is also no evidence that it favors Democratic candidates.”

At The Washington Monthly, Bill Scher writes, “if Democrats continue to suggest they can take care of any minimum wage increase themselves—even at this point when they almost surely can not—then the inevitable failure rests solely on their own shoulders. Even worse, if Democrats bicker over controversial proposals during the pandemic relief bill legislative process, they risk taking the focus off the bill’s wildly popular elements—most prominently, the $1400 checks, which garnered 79 percent support in a recent YouGov poll. Turning a consensus bill into a controversial one would be political malpractice….A $15 minimum wage may not be quite as popular as government checks—it registered at 56 percent in the YouGov poll. But state ballot initiatives for minimum wage increases of varying degrees have proven very popular, even in deep red states including Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota. Just last November, Florida voters enacted a plan for a $15 minimum by 2026. So, by putting pandemic relief and minimum wage on separate legislative tracks, Democrats could force votes on each and really turn the screws on Republicans….Biden appeared to grasp the potential of separation by calmly preparing fellow Democrats for an unfavorable parliamentarian ruling, and assuring they could still win a wage increase after the relief bill passes. Biden is playing chess. Other Democrats are checkmating themselves.”

The Blue Tuesday Community reports that “There’s a new plan to turn Florida blue again inspired by Stacey Abrams, and it’s launching now” at Daily Kos, and notes that “State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), “an energetic and forward-looking progressive who is one of the few rising stars that Democrats have in Florida” has a new plan to revive  the Democratic Party in Florida. “Last week, Eskamani announced that her political action committee, People Power for Florida, was now registered as a voter registration organization, a step required by the state’s democracy-averse laws.” In addition to voter suppression legislation on the books, the Florida Democratic Party may be the weakest of any of the swing states. “The FDP has a lot of trust to rebuild, even with its donors, Eskamani ADDS. “And meanwhile, you look on the ground and nothing is happening in the realm of voter registration….So our hope is that instead of just being one umbrella group that’s leading voter registration, we actually want to create 1000 new groups. We want to empower everyday people to do their own voter registration drives. They can use our banner, but our focus is creating new leaders, so we don’t want it to be about us. We want it to be about building collective power at a neighborhood level.”

Could legalizing weed be a good cause for Democrats at the state level? In “Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Pass Legislation to Legalize Marijuana” at slate.com, Daniel Politi writes, “Virginia lawmakers approved a bill on Saturday that will legalize recreational marijuana in 2024. The compromise bill that delays retail sales of the drug for three years turns Virginia into the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana for adults, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The bill still has to be signed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has been vocal about his support for marijuana legalization….The House passed the legalization measure 48-43 while the Senate approved it 20-19. The bill was approved without a single Republican vote in either chamber. The bill, which would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana or less by those 21 or older, calls for the creation of an independent agency to regulate the marijuana market.” However, “The bill was so contentious that seven Democrats in the House and one in the Senate didn’t support it.” Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff certainly wasn’t shy about expressing his views in his upset victory in Georgia’s U.S.  Senate run-off: “Cannabis should be legalized, regulated and taxed. “I’m not just for decriminalization,” he said. “I’m for full legalization of marijuana nationwide and the expungement of all records for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.”

Tomasky: Another Way to Win a Minimum Wage Hike

Although Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough just ruled the minimum wage increase out of the COVID relief bill, Michael Tomasky argues in favor of the “Dems’ Tricky New Two-Step: First COVID Relief, Then a Wage Hike” at The Daily Beast:

Well, I think there’s a chance, and maybe a good one, that a minimum wage increase isn’t dead yet. But passing one is going to require courage, patience, and compromise. I know compromise is a dirty word. But that’s the legislative process when you didn’t win enough elections to have things the way you want them in our ridiculous system.

Tomasky makes the case that the Covid relief bill has great merit, even without the minimum wage hike., and says Democrats “should immediately start agitating for a stand-alone bill. This would require eliminating or changing the filibuster, which I’ve been saying for years they need to do.”

That will be tough. Manchin and Sinema have to go for it. Biden has to lean on them hard. Might they accede if Biden drops the number a bit from $15 and promises billions for their states? I don’t think it’s impossible. The key phrase above may prove to be “or changing”; Ian Millhiser of Vox recently wrote a comprehensive piece on how the filibuster can be changed, not eliminated, in ways Manchin and Sinema might be able to live with.

There is a significant upside for Dems pushing stand alone minimum wage legislation, according to Tomasky:

A stand-alone bill would pressure some Republicans who purport to be on the side of the working class to take a stand one way or the other. Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, a couple others; they talk populism sometimes, but their no votes on a stand-alone minimum wage bill would chisel their hypocrisy in stone. And Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a top Democratic target for 2022, would make himself more vulnerable with a no vote.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders proposes “an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages.””

Tomasky notes another alternative:

The other way to go is to attach the minimum wage to a “must-pass” bill like a defense appropriations bill. That’s what happened the last time a minimum-wage bill passed in 2007. It was part of an emergency appropriations act that funded the Iraq War.

There will be plenty of those bills in the next couple years. What’s important now is that the White House keep everybody together, and that Democrats not let this setback start a corrosive dynamic. The Senate is a completely screwed-up place. Its rules constantly thwart a majority. These are the kinds of things that happen there. People can respond by getting more enraged—or by getting more strategic.

Tomsky concludes, “Bank the big win of the relief bill, which is coming, and find another venue to fight for the minimum wage. That fight is far from over.”

M4A Movement at the Crossroads

Natalie Shure has a sobering read, “Before Forcing the Vote on Medicare for All, We Must Build Power: Overcoming the ruthless opposition of the health care industry will take a mass movement” at The Nation. Among Shure’s insights:

“With Pelosi’s reelection in January, the best path forward for Medicare for All remains uncertain. While President Joe Biden staunchly opposes it, the razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, as well as Democratic supermajorities in several states, could still present opportunities to advance the cause. Even if #ForceTheVote never materialized as initially conceived, many advocates continue to push for a floor vote as soon as possible. But the unfortunate truth is that the Medicare for All movement lacks the power to make such a vote effective.”

Bam! She’s not saying the M4A idea lacks popular support. She is saying that the movement for it is still too weak. The polling data is favorable overall, depending on the way the polling questions are phrased. (A public option is much more popular than eliminating health insurance companies). But the on-the-ground organizing needs work. Shure continues,

“More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, the case for single-payer has never been clearer: Millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided insurance; inadequate access to care has driven up the Covid-19 death count; and hospitals have found themselves underwater without revenue from elective procedures. The pandemic has given us an intimate look at our country’s unequal health outcomes, which Medicare for All would do more to address than any other systemic reform. But moral necessity isn’t enough to win against a $3.8 trillion health care industry that accounts for nearly 20 percent of the US economy and would be fundamentally upended if Medicare for All were to become a reality. With the health care sector already accounting for some of the top political spenders in Washington, there’s virtually no limit to the amount it would expend to topple reforms far more incremental than Medicare for All. Overcoming the ruthless opposition of the health care industry will take a mass movement willing to hit the streets, engage in direct action, and even go on strike to demand single-payer. Until Medicare for All has that kind of movement power behind it, it will easily be defeated by capital—a lesson we’ve learned repeatedly from health care reform battles in the past. And while it has popular support, polling between 40 and 70 percent, the same was true of national health insurance in the 1940s, until a major doctor-and-insurance-backed lobbying effort made the prospect of “socialized medicine” utterly toxic.”

The pandemic provides an important lesson for those who are willing to learn, that health insurance companies and state boundaries are both pretty useless in a global public health crisis. That part is not a tough sell. But Shure warns of the danger if premature congressional action:

From that perspective, the idea of putting politicians on the record regarding Medicare for All has no obvious value. For one thing, similar insight can already be gleaned from a list of the bill’s House and Senate cosponsors. But more important, given the current power disparity between the Medicare for All movement and the colossus it confronts, the unavoidable fact is that most of the elected officials who say they’re in favor of single-payer health care will never be true ride-or-die supporters until we can generate enough force to make the idea of bending to our will more compelling than bending to Big Health Care’s.

Rather than “bending to our will,” an effective social change movement wins over voters by persuasion and persistence. But Shure is right that building this coalition is the essential precondition that has to come before congressional floor votes, or even committee votes. Chase Iron Eyes makes the argument for pressing the case in congress in “We Can’t Miss the Next Chance to Force the Vote on Medicare for All: The tactic helps pinpoint which Democrats value donors over working people,” also in The Nation. He argues that “Forcing the vote lets the public see where our politicians stand. It feeds into other organizing and makes clear to elected officials that the people are watching them. It also helps the public pinpoint which Democrats value donors over working people.”

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders, inclding President Biden, Majority Leader Shumer and Speaker Pelosi all favor building on the Affordable Care Act over Medicare for All, and that’s what is going to happen — until the movement for Medicare for All reaches maturity.