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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: New Pew Validated Voter Data Show Dems Did Not Win Through High Turnout

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

I argued over and over before the election that high turnout was not the key to beating Trump in the 2020 election. The key instead was doing better among persuadable voters who were not the usual suspects. Turns out I was right, as the new Pew validated voter data (and much previous data) confirm.

Nate Cohn covers the new Pew data:

“Married men and veteran households were probably not the demographic groups that Democrats assumed would carry the party to victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

But Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s apparent strength among traditionally moderate or even conservative constituencies, and especially men, is emerging as one of the hallmarks of his victory, according to new data from Pew Research.

Mr. Trump won married men by just a 54 to 44 percent margin — a net 20 point decline from his 62 to 32 percent victory in 2016. He won veteran households by a similar 55 to 43 percent margin, down a net 14 points from his 61 to 35 percent victory.

In both cases, the size of Mr. Biden’s gains among these relatively conservative groups rivals Mr. Trump’s far more publicized surge among Latino voters. Each group represents a larger share of the electorate than Latinos, as well….

Higher turnout did not reshape the electorate to the favor of Democrats, either. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, many Democrats blamed Mrs. Clinton’s defeat on low turnout and support from young and nonwhite voters. Many progressives even believed that mobilizing Democratic constituencies alone could oust the president, based in part on the assumption that Mr. Trump had all but maxed-out his support among white, rural voters without a degree.

At the same time, Democrats supposed that higher turnout would draw more young and nonwhite voters to the polls, bolstering the party.

Overall, 73 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters voted in the 2020 election compared with 68 percent of Mr. Biden’s supporters. In comparison, Mr. Trump’s supporters were only 2 percentage points more likely to vote than Mrs. Clinton’s in 2016, according to the Pew data….

In the end, there was a far deeper well of support and enthusiasm for Mr. Trump than many progressives had imagined. An additional 13 million people voted for Mr. Trump in 2020 than in 2016. Voter records in states with party registration — like Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — suggest that registered Republicans continued to turn out at a higher rate than registered Democrats, and in some cases even expanded their turnout advantage over the 2016 cycle….

Perhaps another Democrat would have mobilized voters more decisively. But the strong turnout for Mr. Trump implies that it would have been very challenging for any Democrat to win simply by outmuscling the other side.

Instead, Mr. Biden prevailed by making significant inroads among moderate or conservative constituencies.

Mr. Biden’s strength among these groups was not obvious on election night. His gains were largest in suburban areas, which are so heterogenous that it’s often hard to say exactly what kinds of voters might explain his inroads….

[A]ccording to Pew Research, Mr. Biden made larger gains among married men than any other demographic group analyzed in the survey. He won 44 percent of married men, up from 32 percent for Mrs. Clinton in 2016. It’s an even larger surge for Mr. Biden than Pew showed Mr. Trump making among Latino voters, even though they do not stand out on the electoral map.

In a similar analysis, Catalist also showed that Mr. Biden made his largest inroads among married white men, though they showed smaller gains for Mr. Biden than Pew Research.

Mr. Biden also made significant, double-digit gains among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, a persuadable but somewhat conservative voting bloc. He won 16 percent of moderate to liberal Republicans, up from 9 percent for Mrs. Clinton in 2016. And Mr. Biden gained among men, even while making no ground or, according to Pew, losing ground, among women. As a result, the gender gap was cut in half over the last four years, to 13 points from 26 points in 2016.”

You want more Democratic votes? Persuade people to vote for you.

Dionne: Why The Supreme Court Should Be Expanded

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. comments on Thursday’s “twin rulings” from the U.S. Supreme Court, which allow states to “make it harder for people to vote” “made it easier for big donors to sway elections in secrecy.” Dionne argues that “These decisions send three important messages”:

The first is to Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other senators still reluctant to overturn or reform the Senate’s filibuster rules. Their choice really is between defending the filibuster and defending democracy. If Manchin and Sinema allow Republicans in the Senate to kill all efforts to enforce voting rights and to check the power of big money in politics, they will be throwing in the towel on democracy itself.

Manchin, to his credit, has put together a series of provisions aimed at defending voter rights in states where Republican legislatures are engaged in both overt and subtle efforts at voter suppression. If he can’t get 10 Republicans to join him (and all the evidence says he won’t), he has to decide that his (small-d) democratic commitments take precedence over his reluctance to alter the Senate’s rules.

Second, Congress should think again before it strips the For the People Act of its provisions creating strong incentives for federal candidates to rely on small contributions. Small-donor incentives are, at the moment, the most effective way to push back against the Supreme Court’s solicitude toward the role of the wealthy in our political system.

The third is to all who have so far resisted the urgency of battling conservative Republicans’ systematic effort to pack the court with justices who will do their bidding.

From the GOP blockade against President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the 2020 confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett a little more than a week before Election Day, Republicans have been ruthless in using raw power to tilt court outcomes. Two votes on the court could (and likely would) have shifted the outcomes of Thursday’s decisions the other way.

Despite some not-so-bad high court rulings on the Affordable Care Act and a few social issues, it should be clear that the 6-3 Republican majority is taking a hard-right direction against voting and worker rights, as well as curbing corporate power. As Dionne concludes, “Court enlargement must now be on the agenda of anyone who cares about protecting voting rights and our increasingly fragile system of self-rule.” Task #1 in meeting this challenge is the fight for Democratic midterm gains in the Senate and House in 2022.

Teixeira: The Nonwhite Working Class Isn’t Buying What a Lot of Progressives Are Selling

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

The default approach of a lot of self-declared progressives includes not just a lot of reasonably popular left economic stances but also a wide range of views on cultural/social issues that are not popular with the broad working class. The general reaction by said progressives when you point this out is that, oh well, those are white working class voters and they’re hopelessly reactionary.

After all, we still have the nonwhite working class. They are not put off by progressive cultural positions right? Right?

That might be due for a rethink. If nonwhite working class voters start bailing out on progressive cultural politics, the presumed coalition in favor of such politics completely falls apart.

Note well this article by Lisa Lerer in the Times, which appears to be noticing something is going on that previously had escaped their notice:

“Can progressives win broad numbers of the Black and brown voters they say their policies will benefit most?

That provocative question is one that a lot of Democrats find themselves asking after seeing the early results from New York City’s mayoral primary this past week.

In a contest that centered on crime and public safety, Eric Adams, who emerged as the leading Democrat, focused much of his message on denouncing progressive slogans and policies that he said threatened the lives of “Black and brown babies” and were being pushed by “a lot of young, white, affluent people.” A retired police captain and Brooklyn’s borough president, he rejected calls to defund the Police Department and pledged to expand its reach in the city.

Black and brown voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx flocked to his candidacy, awarding Mr. Adams with sizable leading margins in neighborhoods from Eastchester to East New York….

His appeal adds evidence to an emerging trend in Democratic politics: a disconnect between progressive activists and the rank-and-file Black and Latino voters who they say have the most to gain from their agenda. As liberal activists orient their policies to combat white supremacy and call for racial justice, progressives are finding that many voters of color seem to think about the issues quite a bit differently.

“Black people talk about politics in more practical and everyday terms,” said Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University who studies the political views of Black people. “What makes more sense for people who are often distrustful of broad political claims is something that’s more in the middle.”

He added: “The median Black voter is not A.O.C. and is actually closer to Eric Adams.”
I believe this is a point I have made a number of times.

Also interesting is another article in the Times pondering the phenomenon of Adams appealing to working class nonwhites.

“As the national Democratic Party navigates debates over identity and ideology, the mayoral primary in the largest city in the United States is highlighting critical questions about which voters make up the party’s base in the Biden era, and who best speaks for them.

Barely a year has passed since President Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, defeating several more progressive rivals on the strength of support from Black voters and older moderate voters across the board, and running as a blue-collar candidate himself. But Democrats are now straining to hold together a coalition that includes college-educated liberals and centrists, young left-wing activists and working-class voters of color.

“America is saying, we want to have justice and safety and end inequalities,” Mr. Adams declared at a news conference on Thursday, offering his take on the party’s direction. “And we don’t want fancy candidates.”

Mr. Adams’s allies and advisers say that from the start, he based his campaign strategy on connecting with working- and middle-class voters of color.

“Over the last few cycles, the winners of the mayor’s race have started with a whiter, wealthier base generally, and then expanded out,” said Evan Thies, an Adams spokesman and adviser. Mr. Adams’s campaign, he said, started “with low-income, middle-income, Black, Latino, immigrant communities, and then reached into middle-income communities.”…..

Interviews on Thursday with voters on either side of Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway illustrated vividly Mr. Adams’s appeal and limitations. In parts of Crown Heights, the parkway was a physical dividing line, early results show, between voters who went for Ms. Wiley and those who preferred Mr. Adams.

Among older, working-class voters of color who live south of the parkway, Mr. Adams held a commanding lead.

“He’ll support the poor people and the Black and brown people,” said one, Janice Brathwaite, 66, who is disabled and said she had voted for Mr. Adams.

Ms. Brathwaite ruled out Ms. Wiley after hearing her plans for overhauling the Police Department, including a reallocation of $1 billion from the police budget to social service programs and anti-violence measures.

“She is someone who is against the policeman who is protecting me, making sure nobody is shooting me,” Ms. Brathwaite said.:

On the other side of the tracks, so to speak, this proletarian fighter and progressive has a different view:

“[Wiley’s] approach appealed to Allison Behringer, 31, an audio journalist and podcast producer who lives north of the parkway, where Mr. Adams’s challenges were on display among some of the young professionals who live in the area.

“She was the best progressive candidate,” Ms. Behringer said of Ms. Wiley, whom she ranked as her first choice. “She talked about reimagining what public safety is, that really resonated with me.”

Audio engineers and podcast producers of the world unite! Meanwhile, perhaps Democrats need to to reimagine this reimagining public safety stuff.

How the Infrastructure Deal Helps Biden, Dems

Stephen Collinson explains “Why the infrastructure deal is so important for Joe Biden” at CNN Politics:

“The breakthrough will mean that the President’s willingness to give the Senate time to find a rare compromise will have paid off. The pact will, however, fall far short of the much more ambitious plan that Biden originally tabled and is sure to dismay liberals in the Democratic Party, who are demanding a companion proposal worth $6 trillion that they will try to squeeze through the 50-50 Senate using only Democratic votes.

The sudden rush for progress in an institution that often dawdles was brought on by the approaching July 4 recess that effectively begins in the Senate on Thursday night. Legislative time is sparse after that until after Labor Day.

The compressed timeline comes at a moment when Biden and Democrats badly need a win. Since the President signed a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill in March, it’s often looked like minority Republicans have been running the ship. The GOP crushed two Democratic priorities — a bipartisan, independent commission into the January 6 insurrection and on Tuesday used filibuster blockading tactics to kill a vast voting rights bill. Those moves further convinced liberal Democrats that Biden’s hopes of working with an opposition party that seems no longer to care about democracy are futile.”

Collinson writes that “An infrastructure bill would be especially important to Biden because first-term presidencies are all about momentum as a president’s power to force action tends to wane quickly. If Biden doesn’t rack up some legacy achievements soon, his capacity to do so will diminish. And Democrats are also anxiously eying the calendar knowing their precarious hold on power on Capitol Hill may end after midterm elections next year.”

Thinking visually, Collinson adds”While Biden has infuriated many on his own side, a bipartisan bill signing ceremony would be politically valuable for a President who has pitched a moderate image, despite the considerable ambition of his domestic agenda.” It’s a good look for the Democratic Party and the President of a nation hungry for some signs of leadership for more cooperation and less partisan yammering.

Why Many Can’t See the White-Black Wealth Gap

Neil Lewis, Jr. explains why “Why Many Americans Can’t See The Wealth Gap Between White And Black America” at FiveThirtyEight:

The reality is that our nation is still racially segregated. And it’s segregated in ways that limit our opportunities to learn about each other’s life experiences, even if our laws do not formally segregate our nation as they once did. This means that some live in a world in which they rarely encounter the conditions that bring harm to others everyday; others can’t escape those very conditions.

….The places where we live affect not only our access to resources, but also who we meet, interact with and become friends with. And because our neighborhoods are so segregated, our social networks are also siloed — about three-quarters of white Americans don’t have any nonwhite friends, according to a 2014 survey from PRRI. The nature of segregation in the U.S. means that we only end up seeing and learning about what our own groups experience, making it hard to understand the lives of people outside of our own group.

This explains, in part, why Americans have such a hard time understanding just how unequal our nation is, and moreover, the racialized nature of that inequality. For example, if you ask Americans about racial wealth gaps, you’ll find that they severely underestimate those gaps; according to a 2019 paper from a team of psychologists, Americans think the Black-white wealth gap is 40 to 80 percent smaller than it actually is.

Regarding racial inequality in the U.S., Lewis notes that “There is a mountain of evidence documenting its manifestation in education, health, criminal justice, employment and many other domains. And there are experts who have devoted their careers to studying how the structure, culture and politics of American society (re)produce inequality, as well as pathways for disrupting those cycles.” Further, Lewis argues, “if we want to disrupt long-standing patterns of racial inequality, our best course of action as a country might be to rely on that evidence and expertise instead of trying to convince people that the disparities exist, as it will always be hard for people to see inequality if it doesn’t bring harm to their own lives.”

Teixeira: Manchin Voting Rights Compromise, Popularity of Key Reforms

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

Stephen Wolf at Daily Kos Elections has a good summary (fair and balanced!) of Manchin’s proposed voting rights compromise. Well worth reading.

“While Manchin’s latest demands are likely to disappoint Democrats and democracy reformers who have called for as wide-ranging a bill as possible, Democrats hold little leverage over the West Virginia senator, whose vote is essential to overcome both GOP procedural obstruction and opposition to reform on the underlying merits. Manchin’s move to detail changes that could win his vote is a key first step toward reaching some sort of compromise that could one day pass Congress…”

In a related blog post, Teixeira cites new Monmouth poll data that clarifies the popularity of key voting rights reforms:

Voter Consensus: Make Early Voting Easier, Establish National Guidelines for Mail Voting and Early Voting, Require Photo ID to Vote

New Monmouth Poll data:

Make Early Voting Easier:
71 percent white/73 percent nonwhite/69 percent white noncollege (WNC)/73 percent white college graduate (WCG)

Establish National Guidelines for Mail and Early Voting:
65 white/67 nonwhite/66 WNC/65 WCG

Require Photo ID to Vote:
77 white/84 nonwhite/83 WNC/65 WCG

Interesting, especially the nonwhite figure on photo ID for voting.

Why Border Crisis Solution Requires More Than Reversing Trump’s Policies

A good ABC Examined News documentary on the border crisis, via FiveThirtyEight:

“After immigration at the southern border dipped during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge of migrants in 2021 has already surpassed recent records. Some have critiqued the Biden administration for quickly rolling back Trump administration policies without providing additional shelter capacity for arriving children. This episode of ABC’s Examined explores how the situation at the border is changing, and what the Biden administration could do to address the crisis.”

Should Dems Plug Their Party More?

Alex Pareene’s article, “Here’s an Idea for Liberals: Propaganda: After every election, Democrats seem to talk about how they failed to craft a clear message. So how about bombarding people with a new kind of campaign ad?” at The New Republic suggests a new messaging strategy for Democrats. As Pareene writes,

The Democratic Party, by and large, relies on corporate mainstream media to do its messaging work and is then constantly furious when this strategy fails or backfires. Especially in Congress, leadership designs its strategy around trying to get a certain kind of coverage in the mainstream press; Democrats schedule votes intended to fail in order to create news stories about Republican intransigence, for example, and perform oversight hearings primarily in order to get particular members on television news. Given the average age of Democratic leadership, many of them probably learned or honed this strategy back when Americans watched one of three evening news broadcasts and read their municipality’s largest paper daily.

And this messaging strategy still does have some effect on non-Fox cable news coverage (in many congressional offices, as in many bad airport bars, cable news is on all day), but the limitations of the approach reveal themselves in every Media Matters bulletin, every complaint about how The New York Times has “framed” some issue, every frustrated tweet about Sunday talk shows featuring panels made up of Republicans on the one side and nonpartisan pundits on the other. The corporate media is not as implacably hostile to mainstream liberalism as it is to the left, but neither is it liberalism’s reliable ally.

Conservatives, on the other hand, simply tell their supporters whatever message they wish to convey through their expansive and organized propaganda networks. It is important to note that the official Republican Party does not lead this process. In fact, the party at this point is led by the propaganda network (parts of which are in turn captured by their increasingly rabid audiences). Conservatives can argue about whether this development has been “good” for those in the party actually interested in conservative policy goals. But no one can really deny the political success of the operation. It has kept the GOP relevant—and kept conservatives solidly in control of the party—even when actual conservative governance has regularly led to catastrophe, scandal, and failure.

Pareene conceeds “Liberals shouldn’t (and couldn’t) recreate the right-wing messaging operation, not least because their voters, and the voters they need to reach, consume media very differently from the conservative base.” However, notes Pareene, “liberals—normal, mainstream, Pod Save America–listening, Barack Obama–voting liberals—need to learn to get their message directly to people instead of trying to wrangle NPR and The New York Times into covering the news in a way favorable to Democrats.” In addition, Pareene adds:

Some political science professors summarized a recent research experiment in Politico Magazine earlier this month. Alexander Coppock, Donald P. Green, and Ethan Porter “conducted a series of randomized experiments to test whether parties can win over new loyalists” with ads that promoted a party rather than a particular candidate. What they found was that, with repeat exposure, “people changed their partisan identification ever so slightly after seeing the ads,” and that “higher doses of party-promoting ads” could influence people’s voting decisions and feelings about Donald Trump. “Partisan identity is usually understood as a root cause of political behavior,” the political scientists wrote. “By moving it, we also appear to have moved real-world political decisions.”

In the world of American political communications, ads promoting a party are a novelty. The researchers concluded that “both parties could benefit from producing the kinds of ads we tested,” and it’s true that neither party currently does this with conventional TV advertising. But while these political scientists framed their experiments as part of a novel ad strategy, what they were really doing was directly exposing people to particular political messages that had been designed to influence their political affinities—and even their identities. There is already language to describe what that kind of messaging is. These political scientists independently invented party propaganda, exposed Americans to it, and discovered that it can be effective, especially with constant exposure. Conservatives don’t need to learn to do this: It’s how their movement sustains itself.

Pareene notes further, “Amusingly, the top-shelf political ad professionals the political scientists hired to make the ads were “flummoxed by the request,” because no one had ever before asked them to create messaging designed to promote the Democratic Party or to convince people to associate themselves with it. Despite how familiar American liberals are with the power of propaganda when yielded by the right, it has seemingly never occurred to the most powerful of them to do any propagandizing on behalf of their own causes and party!”

Put another way, should Democrats put more effort into promoting their party? They could hardly do less. Perhaps experimenting with the concept in a few swing districts could shed some light on the potential of the approach as a grand strategy.

Teixeira: Joe Manchin, The People’s Hero

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

Joe Manchin is taking a lot of flack these days and I get why. If only he was not the actually-existing Joe Manchin from the actually-existing conservative state of West Virginia but instead some other Joe Manchin from some other, much more liberal, West Virginia! The Democrats’ job would certainly be a lot easier.

But this is all a bit silly isn’t it? In reality, the Democrats are damn lucky to have Manchin. They and any chance of large-scale progressive legislation would be dead without him. As political scientist Hans Noel noted in the Post:

“[I]t should be possible for Democrats to hold two thoughts at once about the West Virginia politician: First, what he is doing is lamentable, damaging to the party’s goals. But second, his presence in the Senate is a gift to the Democratic Party. Having a Democratic senator in 2021 in a state like West Virginia — where neither Hillary Clinton nor Biden could crack 30 percent of the vote — is a remarkable bit of good fortune.

Had Manchin not won reelection in 2018, his seat would be held by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). This is the Morrisey who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in four states where Trump lost; so probably not, to put it mildly, someone whom Democrats could persuade to back the For the People Act. More importantly, all else remaining the same, had Morrisey won, Democrats would be in the minority in the Senate, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) would be setting the body’s agenda, as majority leader.

But perhaps West Virginia needn’t have chosen between Manchin and someone like Morrisey in the first place. What if Democrats ran and nominated someone more liberal, or at least more likely to vote with Democrats, in Manchin’s next primary?

Consider, however, that Manchin beat Morrisey with 49.6 percent of the vote to Morrisey’s 46.3. This in a state where Biden got 29.7 percent of the presidential vote in 2020 and the Democratic challenger to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) that same year got 27 percent. There’s no evidence that another Democrat could come anywhere close to Manchin’s electoral performance.”

Them’s the facts. You might not like ’em, but them’s the facts.

And it’s not like they’re getting nothing from Manchin. David Leonhardt spells out his utility on economic issues, if not on things like the voting rights bill:

“The issues that tend to unite the Democratic Party are economic issues, and Manchin is a good case study. When he breaks with his party, it is typically on issues other than economic policy.

He effectively killed the voting rights bill this week, and he voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018. Manchin is also well to the right of most congressional Democrats on abortion and gun policy.

Yet he has often stuck with his party on taxes, health insurance, labor unions and other pocketbook issues. Like every other Democrat in the Senate, Manchin voted against both Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and the 2017 Trump tax cut that was skewed heavily toward the rich. Earlier this year, Manchin voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus rescue bill. Without his vote, that bill would not be law.

On all these issues — economic and otherwise — Manchin’s votes tend to reflect the majority opinion of his constituents. West Virginia is a working-class state, and American working-class voters tend to be culturally conservative and economically progressive. Polls show that most favor abortion restrictions, tight border security and well-funded police departments — as well as expanded Medicare and pre-K, a higher minimum wage, federal spending to create jobs and tax increases on the rich.

“Manchin is a pocketbook Democrat, not a social warrior,” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me.

This pattern suggests that Manchin may be willing to support versions of the next two major items on Biden’s agenda: an infrastructure bill and an “American Families Plan” to expand child care, education and other areas….

If Manchin had provided the deciding vote for the voting rights bill, it arguably would have been unlike any other vote he had cast in his career. The same would not be true of a vote for the infrastructure bill or the families plan.”

Leonhardt goes on to draw the crucial lessons for the Democrats going forward:

“What about the longer term for the Democratic Party? Some Democrats are worried that the lack of a voting rights bill will doom the party to election losses starting in 2022. But that seems like an overstatement.

The voting restrictions being passed by Republican state legislators are worrisomely antidemocratic and partisan in their intent, many election experts say. And they may give Republicans an unfair advantage in very close elections. But it seems likely they will have only a modest impact, as Nate Cohn, who analyzes elections for The Times, has explained. Democrats can still win elections.

Manchin happens to be a useful guide on that topic, too. He has kept winning even as West Virginia has become deeply Republican, by appealing to the state’s culturally conservative, economically progressive majority. To varying degrees, some other Democrats from red or purple states, like Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, offer similar lessons. So did Obama, who fared better with working-class voters than many other Democrats.

This approach is the only evident way for Democrats to stem their losses in recent years among working-class voters — and not only among the white working class. A recent analysis of the 2020 election by three Democratic groups argued that the party lost Black, Latino and Asian American support because it did not have a sharp enough economic message. A recent poll by a Republican group found that most Latinos supported both tight border security and “traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom….

The Democrats’ problem isn’t so much Joe Manchin as it is the dearth of other senators who are as good at winning tough elections as he is.”

That’s right. You don’t like Joe Manchin? Fine. Go elect a bunch of other Senators in tough states so Democrats aren’t so dependent on him. The continuous rending of garments about his conservatism is truly pointless.

Finally, it’s not clear that Machin did such a bad thing by finally marking clear the For the People Act wasn’t going to pass. It was a quixotic and doomed approach to the problems it purported to solve. John Judis notes the profound problems with the bill and how a narrower approach to voting rights problems would be more realistic and effective:

“The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandable that he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.

These measures include, as I have described before, wide-ranging campaign finance reform, including public funding of elections, the institution of non-partisan redistricting, support for Congress being able to declare the District of Columbia a state, and a panoply of regulations that would govern state elections — elections that are supposed to be the purview of states. Many of these provisions are controversial. In West Virginia, the Association of County Clerks sent Manchin and his fellow senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a letter opposing the bill on the grounds that West Virginia was not prepared to implement many of the new regulations. Of the 54 of 55 clerks who signed the letter, 37 were Democrats….

Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular — making election-day a federal holiday, for instance. And they would be even better off, as Manchin suggested, putting their weight behind the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, and permit the Justice Department to block measures intended to curb minority voting. These measures are readily understandable, and would earn some Republican support, and they do address the Republican efforts to rig forthcoming elections. If this bill failed, that defeat could be used against Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024. It would portray the Republicans as captive of Trump’s bigotry and assault against democracy, and this measure’s defeat might also lead some Democrats to reconsider their opposition to filibuster reform.

As for the filibuster, the Democrats currently lack the popular support — as well as support in the Senate — for doing away entirely with the filibuster. To do that, Democrats would have to show that Republicans were using the filibuster to block measures that [are] wildly popular. The For the People Act doesn’t qualify. Nor do…most of [the] major bills that House Democrats have passed and are hoping to pass that cover gender, race, immigration, labor, and gun control.”

These are the political realities Democrats have to deal with until the situation changes. Until then though, you still have Joe Manchin–The People’s Hero!

Judis: Is Manchin Actually Helping Dems?

Writing at Talking Points Memo, John Judis, author of The Politics of Our Time: Populism, Nationalism, Socialism  and other works of political analysis, makes a case that Sen. Joe Manchin may be “doing the Democrats a favor.” As Judis writes,

Liberal Democrats are enraged at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the For the People Act and for supporting the filibuster, which would have to be overturned in order for the voting legislation, even with Manchin’s support, to get through Congress. Manchin may, however, be doing these liberal Democrats a favor in this case.

In response to setbacks in November 2020, Republican state governments are attempting to rig their election laws to favor their own candidates. Some of these measures, such as limiting voting by mail, may not favor Republicans at all. (Several of the measures counter rules that were specially designed for voting during the pandemic and may be irrelevant in 2022 and beyond.) Other measures, such as limiting polling places and times in urban areas, could depress minority voting and benefit Republicans. Still others, such as allowing state legislators to overturn popular election results, are probably unconstitutional.

The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandablethat he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.

Judis argues that “Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular” and focus on passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has more hope of bipartisan support. Some of the measures in the ‘For the People Act’ could more realistically be passed later on, along with some of the more controversial social reforms – particularly if Dems pick up some Senate and House seats in the midterm elections, and in  2024. Also,

What Democrats can pass without the threat of the filibuster are spending and taxing measures. These can be passed through a process called reconciliation. These kind of economic measures, epitomized in the Biden administration’s relief and recovery bills, are popular. So, too, was the recent Senate bill promoting an industrial policy, which won bipartisan support. In other words, the presence of the filibuster forces Democrats in the Senate and the Biden administration to focus their efforts on popular economic measures. These measures will put the party in good stead in the next elections, which Democrats must win if they don’t want whatever they accomplish in these years to be reversed or subverted. If the Democrats lose the Congress in 2022, they will be stymied.

Read the rest of Judis’s TPM article right here.