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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Abramowitz: Midterm Election ‘Shellacking’ Unlikely

A sobering conclusion from “Are Democrats Headed for a Shellacking in the Midterm Election? What the generic ballot model predicts” by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Democrats are very likely to lose their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm election and could lose their majority in the Senate, although that is less certain. In neither chamber, however, are they likely to experience a shellacking of the sort that both parties have experienced in some postwar midterm elections. That is simply because they won only 222 seats in the House in 2020 and are defending only 14 seats in the Senate. The fact that very few of those Democratic seats in the House and none of the Democratic seats in the Senate are in districts or states that were carried by Donald Trump in 2020 makes it even less likely that the party will experience a shellacking the size of which we’ve seen in some previous midterms or anything close to it — even as the Republicans could very well flip both chambers of Congress this fall.

Despite all of the defeatist nail-biting about Democratic prospectsin the House of Reps, there is a plausible optimistic scenario in which Democrats hold their senate majority and maybe pick up a seat or two. Sure, there are factors which could produce the feared ‘shellacking” in both houses of congress. But it’s good news when a political scientist of Abramowitz’s caliber believes that is unlikely.

Summers Inflation Warning: Right for the Wrong Reason?

From “Is Larry Summers Really Right About Inflation and Biden? The Harvard economist is getting plaudits for the warnings he issued early last year, but some Administration officials and economists are questioning the basis of his arguments” by John Cassidy at The New Yorker:

The first imperative, in assessing Summers’s contribution, is to clarify what he predicted. Appearing on Bloomberg’s “Wall Street Week” show on March 19, 2021, he said, “I think there is about a one-third chance that inflation will significantly accelerate over the next several years, and we’ll be in a stagflationary situation like the one that materialized between 1966 and 1969.” Summers said that there was also a one-third chance “that we won’t see inflation, but the reason we won’t see it is that the Fed hits the brakes hard, markets get very unstable, the economy skids downwards close to recession.” Finally, he added, there was “a one-third chance that the Fed and the Treasury will get what they are hoping for, and we’ll get rapid growth, which will moderate in a non-inflationary way.” Discussing Summers’s predictions, Tim Duy, a longtime Federal Reserve watcher who is now chief U.S. economist at SGH Macro Advisors, recently commented, “He certainly had those inflationary concerns very early. The counter is that he also put out plenty of other scenarios—enough that he almost couldn’t be wrong.”

….At this stage, most economists agree with Summers that, during 2021, strong demand, boosted by the American Rescue Plan, played at least some role in the inflation surge. “You’ve seen a broadening of inflation pressures in the economy, and an acceleration of wage growth,” Tim Duy, the SGH economist, said. “That’s all consistent with demand-driven inflation.” Even Sahm conceded to me that some of the extra federal spending eventually showed up in higher prices, but she added that the main cause of higher inflation was “fundamental disruptions under the hood” of the economy caused by the pandemic.

Ultimately, what matters now is whether we really are on the verge of returning to the nineteen-seventies. “I said a year ago, Vietnam is the right analogy. Inflation goes from one per cent to six per cent in four years of super-expansionary fiscal policy,” Summers told me. “Brad DeLong and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers said [to] look at World War Two and the Korean War. Those parallels, where price controls were central, so far have not proved out.”

In his most recent column in the Washington Post, Summers reiterated his call for sharply higher interest rates. He told me: “Prompter action from the Fed in the nineteen-seventies would have obviated the need for the Volcker recession, so prompt action against the threat of inflation is essential now.” With the Labor Department set to release the Consumer Price Index for March next week, the inflation-policy debate will only intensify. In the end, though, a lot of the animus toward Summers in Democratic policy circles is political. Many Democrats think that he has been giving ammunition to the Republicans, who cite him regularly, and understating the broader benefits that Biden’s policies have delivered, which include record job growth in the first year of his Presidency.

Summers said, “The benefits from the American Rescue Plan depend on a strong economy, which is threatened as overheating leads to declining real wages and, quite possibly, recession.” He added, “The Rescue Plan has crowded out political space for desirable long-term investments in the Build Back Better plan. And Carter’s demise suggests that inflation is a grave threat to progressive politics.”

Cassidy concludes, “Actually, it was Republican opposition and Senator Joe Manchin that sank the Build Back Better plan, and it’s far from certain that Manchin would have supported the initiative if the American Rescue Plan had been smaller. It’s certainly true, however, that Biden and the Democrats have been damaged politically by the inflation surge. How it plays out from here, and who is blamed, will go far to determine ultimate attitudes toward Biden’s economic record, and to the Summers critique.”

Teixeira: How to Fix the Democratic Brand

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

National Review (yes, National Review) just published a lengthy essay of mine on how the Democrats could fix their woefully bad party image, if they had a mind to do so. And if you’re wondering why this essay isn’t in some left-leaning magazine, the answer is pretty simple: they wouldn’t dream of publishing it.

“As a lifelong man of the Left who very much wants the Democratic Party to succeed, I regret to report this: The Democrats and the Democratic brand are in deep trouble. That should have been obvious when Democrats underperformed in the 2020 election, turning what they and most observers expected to be a blue wave into more of a ripple. They lost House seats and performed poorly in state legislative elections. And their support among non-white voters, especially Hispanics, declined substan­tially.

Still, they did win the presidency, which led many to miss the clear market signals this underperformance was sending. That tendency was strengthened by the Democrats’ improbable victories in the two Senate runoffs in Georgia, which gave them full control of the federal government, albeit by the very narrowest of margins.

At the same time, Trump’s refusal to concede the election — his bizarre behavior in that regard probably contributed to the GOP defeats in the Georgia runoffs — and his encouragement of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 led many Democrats to assume that the Republican brand would be so damaged by association that the Democratic brand would shine by comparison. And yet, two years later, the Democrats are in brutal shape.

Biden’s approval rating is in the low 40s, only a little above where Trump’s was at the same point in his presidential term, which of course was the precursor to the GOP’s drubbing in the 2018 election. Biden has been doing especially poorly among working-class and Hispanic voters. His approval ratings on specific issues tend to be lower, in the high 30s on the economy and in the low 30s on hot-button issues such as immigration and crime. Off-year and special elections since 2020 have indicated a strongly pro-Republican electoral environment, and Democrats currently trail Republicans in the generic congressional ballot for 2022. It now seems likely that Democrats will, at minimum, lose control of the House this November and quite possibly suffer a wave election up and down the ballot.

Most Democrats would prefer to believe that the current dismal situation merely reflects some bad luck. The Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus did undercut Biden’s plans for returning the country to normal, interacting with supply-chain difficulties to produce an inflation spike that angered consumers, but that is not the whole picture. Democrats have failed to develop a party brand capable of unifying a dominant majority of Americans behind their political project. Indeed, the current Democratic brand suffers from several deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to many American voters who might otherwise be the party’s allies. I locate these deficiencies in three key areas: culture, economics, and patriotism.”

Read the whole thing at NR. I think you’ll find it thought-provoking even if you don’t agree with it.

What Biden Can Do to Protect Democracy

The New Republic has a panel discussion, “What Can Biden Do Now to Protect the Ballot? We Asked Eric Holder and Six Other Voting Rights Experts.Here’s what the president can do, now that major reforms are dead in the water in Congress.” Some excerpts:

Former Attorney General Eric Holder: ….with or without new federal laws, the Department of Justice should use its power to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act and constitutional voting protections, especially in states that have restricted ballot access in recent years….and the Biden Administration must continue to use its bully pulpit to reinforce that message to lawmakers and the American public. The White House must continue to call for action, including congressional action on voting rights. The country needs a reinvigorated Department of Justice that is closely following, documenting, and challenging voter suppression and election subversion in laws recently passed by states.

Trevor Potter, President of Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission: The Biden administration can take at least four important steps: first, mobilize agencies to provide registration materials to eligible voters; second, guarantee voting access for eligible voters in federal custody; third, direct the Department of Justice to deploy election monitors and enforce existing voter intimidation laws; and fourth, prioritize providing accurate information about our election system. This would help make voting safe and accessible for all.

Chris Anders, Federal policy director at the ACLU: the Executive Branch has existing power to continue to urge federal agencies to provide expanded voter registration opportunities alongside their regular services, which can help reduce race and income-based disparities in voter registration.

Wendy Weiser, Vice president of Democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law: The White House should insist that any compromise legislation meaningfully tackle race discrimination in voting and sabotage threats. It should encourage Congress to fund elections. And it should fully engage federal agencies in enforcing voting rights, protecting election officials and infrastructure, and ensuring access to registration and voting.

Ayo Atterberry, Chief strategy officer with the League of Women Voters: The White House should continue to work with civil society organizations like the League of Women Voters around electoral access and transparency and push Congress to find common ground on voting rights protections that restore the Voting Rights Act.

Fred McBride, Senior policy advisor with the Southern Poverty Law Center: ….we need the Biden administration to renew efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and expand federal protections to increase access to the ballot box. Federal voting legislation remains the best way to protect voters and establish reasonable standards for access to polls.

Scher: Key Factors in the Georgia Flip

From “Can Democrats Hold Georgia? The party did everything right to win the state in 2020—and the Republicans did everything wrong” by Bill Scher at The Washington Monthly. Scher’s article brings into sharper focus the Georgia 2021 upset that gave Democrats their thin Senate “majority.” As Scher writes,

In the preface of his new book, Flipped, the political reporter Greg Bluestein of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that in 2020 Georgia helped Democrats win back the White House and the Senate “with a formula that could serve as a template for the party in once bright-red territories elsewhere.”

That formula seemed counterintuitive to many Democrats accustomed to chasing swing voters. “Georgia Democrats mostly abandoned attempts to pose as moderate ‘Republican-lite’ figures and jettisoned all-out efforts to convert conservative voters with poll-tested talking points,” Bluestein writes. “Instead, leaders energized the party’s core constituencies—including many who rarely cast ballots—with policies that just a few years prior would have seemed unthinkable.”

….according to Bluestein, “old-guard Democrats insisted” that to get sufficient white support, “Democrats needed to run even harder to the middle.” But it was with the squarely progressive Ossoff and Warnock that Democrats essentially hit the 30-30 mark, with exit poll data showing each getting 29 percent of the white vote and the Black share of the electorate reaching 30 percent.

But does all credit go to the progressive platform and the Democrats’ complementary efforts to juice turnout among their base? Bluestein writes that the Democrats’ “hard work” was buoyed by “extraordinary fortune,” foreshadowing his account of the Republican circular firing squad that shot down rural conservative turnout, part of the reason why the Black share of the electorate was so high….The difference between the Democratic and Republican stories is that for the past few years, the Democrats effectively resolved their internal disputes, while Republicans found new ways to stick the shiv in each other.

….Abrams passed on the Senate while Ossoff and Warnock stepped up. And once they advanced to the runoff, their campaigns synergistically worked together. They had similarly progressive platforms that avoided far-left pitfalls that could have spooked the middle—neither embraced, for example, “Medicare for All” or “Defund the Police.”

….The Republican get-out-the-vote effort was similarly “staggering,” Bluestein writes. It was just undercut by Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election and denigrate the state’s Republican election officials. Bluestein notes that many of the approximately 750,000 Georgians who voted in the November general election but not in the January runoffs were in conservative rural areas. Some of the biggest declines were in areas where Trump spouted his nonsense at post-November rallies: Dalton and Valdosta. The president’s scorched-earth attacks on Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his declarations that the election had been a sham were bound to diminish turnout drives for Perdue and Loeffler.

As impressed as Bluestein is by what the Democrats accomplished, he ends the book on an uncertain note, pointing out that 2020’s turnout spikes cannot “be counted on without a global pandemic” encouraging easy absentee voting “and the polarizing presence of Trump on the ballot in 2022.” He concludes that we can’t yet determine “whether the suburban shift that had turned Republican bastions into Democratic territory was firm or a fluke.”

While Bluestein stops short of drawing definitive conclusions, Flipped does provide a road map. One, demographics aren’t quite destiny, but you sure want them moving in your direction. Two, run candidates who can energize base voters without alienating swing voters. Three, build a turnout operation to channel that energy. Four, stay united while Republicans squabble.

Will such a formula allow Democrats to flip other red states with significant Black populations? Not easily. For example, as Perry Bacon Jr. detailed for FiveThirtyEight, North Carolina doesn’t have quite as many African American voters as Georgia, and its pool of white non-college voters is particularly conservative on racial and social issues, making the 30-30 goal tricky to reach. But Stacey Abrams and the Georgia Democratic Party didn’t wait for the state’s demographic math to fall into place before building the necessary GOTV infrastructure. Flipped makes clear that flipping can take time and effort— and a little bit of unhinged stupidity from your opponents.

Democrats do need a thorough understaning of the pivotal Georgia flip of 2020-21, and Scher’s take on Greg Bluestein’s book brings it into a clearer perspective.

Teixeira: The Not So Interested American

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

John Halpin makes an important point at The Liberal Patriot: most Americans aren’t particularly engaged by politics yet political parties must still figure our how to reach them. Hint: It’s probably not through your favorite political hobby horse.

“Here’s a suggestion for the two political parties: create a research and communications arm staffed only by people who don’t pay any attention to politics whatsoever and instead inhabit the sociological contexts most Americans occupy in terms of their families, workplaces, media consumption, and local peer groups. No fancy graduate school degrees required. No following Twitter feuds about people’s tone and issue priorities. No debates about Build Back Better or regime change or critical race theory or Trump’s stolen election fictions.

This new research arm could end up being the most valuable branch of party affairs because it is closer to the reality of vast numbers of Americans who couldn’t care less about politics and government.

As background for the new department, study the Pew Research Center’s excellent 2021 study on political typologies. This report presents more useful information about the public and the complex landscape of American political life than any ten “message” surveys around. Consider these important findings:

A scant 9 percent of Americans say they grew up in a family that talked a lot about politics at home. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans report not really discussing politics much if at all growing up. The reality facing the two parties is that most Americans are not socialized into politics in any meaningful manner.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot. Also relevant: Stealth Democracy by Hibbing and Theiss-Morse.

Edsall: Ukraine War Provides Political Peril and Potential Upside for Biden

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT column, “What We Know About the Women Who Vote for Republicans and the Men Who Do Not” discusses a range of gender influenced attitudes related to partisanship, including “contradictory findings of a March 17-21 AP/NORC poll of 1,082 Americans on views of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” As Edsall writes:

On one hand, 56 percent of those polled described Biden’s response as “not been tough enough” compared with 36 percent “about right” and 6 percent “too tough.” There were sharp partisan divisions on this question: 68 percent of Republicans said Biden’s response to the invasion was not tough enough, and 20 percent said it was about right. Fifty-three percent of Democrats said it was about right, and 43 percent said not tough enough. Independents were closer to Republicans than to Democrats: 64 percent not tough enough, 25 percent just right.

Conversely, the AP/NORC survey found that 45 percent of respondents said they were very or extremely “concerned about Russia using nuclnd Dems)ear weapons that target the United States,” 30 percent said they were “somewhat concerned,” and 25 percent said they were “not very or not at all concerned.”

The potential pitfalls in the American response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine range from provoking Vladimir Putin to further escalation to diminishing the United States in the eyes of Russia and the rest of the world. The specific dangers confronting policymakers stem from serious decisions taken in a crisis climate, but the pressures on those making the decisions are tied to the competing psychological dispositions of Republicans and Democrats described above, and they are tied as well to discrepancies between men and women in toleration of the use of force.

In a 2018 paper, “The Suffragist Peace,” Joslyn N. Barnhart, Allan Dafoe, Elizabeth N. Saunders and Robert F. Trager found that “at each stage of the escalatory ladder, women prefer more peaceful options.”

“More telling,” the authors write,

is to compare how men and women weigh the choice between backing down and conflict. Women are nearly indifferent between an unsuccessful use of force in which nothing is gained, and their country’s leader backs down after threatening force. Men, by contrast, would much rather see force used unsuccessfully than see the country’s reputation endangered through backing down. Approval among men is fully 36 percent higher for a use of force that achieves nothing and in which over 4,000 U.S. soldiers die than when the U.S. president backs down and the same objective outcome is achieved without loss of life.

The gender gap on the use of force has deep roots. A 2012 study, “Men and Women’s Support for War: Accounting for the gender gap in public opinion,” found consistently higher support among men than women for military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, concluding that the evidence shows a “consistent ‘gender gap’ over time and across countries.” According to the study, “it would be rare to find scholarship in which gender differences on the question of using military force are not present.”

The author, Ben Clements, cites “psychological differences between women and men, with the former laying greater value on group relationships and the use of cooperation and compromise, rather than aggressive means, to resolve disputes.”

It should be self-evident that the last thing this country needs at a time when the world has drawn closer to the possibility of nuclear war than it has for decades is a leader like Donald Trump, the apotheosis of aggressive, intemperate white manhood, who at the same time unreservedly seeks the admiration of Vladimir Putin and other authoritarians.

The difficult task facing Biden is finding the correct balance between restraint and authority, between harm avoidance and belligerent opposition. The situation in Ukraine has the potential to damage Biden’s already weakened political stature or to provide him with an opportunity to regain some of the support he had when first elected.

As Edsall concluse, “American wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have been costly for incumbent American presidents, and Biden faces an uphill struggle reversing that trend, even as the United States faces the most dangerous set of circumstances in its recent history.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Democrats take aim at Big Oil in lead up to midterms,” Zack Budryk reports at The Hill that “Democrats are looking to pin the blame on oil companies for high gas prices, potentially signaling an election-year goal of refocusing scrutiny on an issue that has dogged President Biden’s approval ratings….Two different House committee chairs have called for oil CEOs to testify on disparities between falling oil prices and consumer gas prices. While three companies rebuffed House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), several others are set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday….“While American families struggle to shoulder the burden of rising gas prices from Putin’s war on Ukraine, fossil fuel companies are not doing enough to relieve pain at the pump, instead lining their pockets with one hand while sitting on the other,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and investigations subcommittee Chairwoman Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a statement Tuesday….A bicameral bill sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) would tax major oil companies on windfall profits and provide rebates to Americans from the proceeds….“What we’ve seen as a result of the Russian invasion is a lot of speculation and cartel behavior that has dramatically raised oil and gas prices,” Whitehouse said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “Note that the costs did not change, there has not been a similar spike in cost to match the spike in price. … This is a price increase of choice on the part of the big oil companies.”

In other oil and midterm politics news, Kevin Liptak reports “Biden considering releasing 1 million barrels of oil per day from strategic reserves” at CNN Politics. As Liptak writes, “President Joe Biden is weighing releasing a record amount of oil from US reserves as high gas prices persist. A plan being considered involves releasing around 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the coming months, a person familiar with the deliberations says….The announcement could come as soon as Thursday, when Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks from the White House on gas prices….Biden earlier in the month announced a coordinated release of oil from the reserves in conjunction with other nations. He also released around 60 million barrels in November, which he said at the time was the largest release from the reserve in US history.” However, “Tapping the reserve — the stockpile of 600 million barrels of crude oil stored in underground salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas — generally has only a limited effect on gas prices because of how much oil can be released at a time, but would act as a political sign that Biden is continuing to confront the problem.” Liptak also reports that the governors of CA, GA and ME are pushing economic relief packages for gas consumers.

Could Trump blow the midterms for the GOP?” Ryan Lizza, Rachel Bade and Eugene Daniels mull over the possibilities at Politico Playbook. Among their comments: “One of the few ways Republicans could potentially blow this electoral equivalent of a layup is if former President DONALD TRUMP suddenly returns to center court….Trump is not toxic for his party everywhere. Republicans did better than expected in House races in 2020 because of the high MAGA turnout Trump generated. But he’s deadly for the GOP in the decisive suburbs at the heart of 2022 politics. Recall how Virginia’s GLENN YOUNGKIN treated Trump like Voldemort, concerned that even uttering his name would repel potential supporters in NoVa….There is a debate among Democrats about whether there is any strategic value in making Trump the center of the election. The moderate Dems barely clinging to their seats insist they have no interest in talking about him. The make-2022-about-Trump faction insists that the only way to recreate the Dem surges of 2018 and 2020 is to recreate the Trump-saturated political environment of those years when right-leaning suburbanites flocked to the Dems….But that debate may be moot….This week’s convergence of 2020 election subversion news and wild Trump comments is a harbinger of things to come. The Jan. 6 committee’s major reports, when released this year, will force every candidate to discuss Trump and 2020. And as the midterms approach, Trump, who has big bets placed on dozens of candidates up and down ballots across America, will be a central player in campaigns everywhere, whether either party likes it or not.”

Some cogent observations from “The Media Is Not Ready for the Midterms” by Molly Jong-Fast at The Atlantic: “The Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, who has written extensively on this topic, has recommended the “truth sandwich”—the tactic by which a reporter properly quotes a lie by surrounding it with truth. Her advice for the media as the midterms approach? “The mainstream press (the reality-based press, to distinguish them from the right-wing press) should focus on what’s good for citizens and not the horse race aspect of the midterms, and they should call out lies clearly.” She added that she’d also like to see “more focus on voting rights and gerrymandering.”….When I reached out to Jon Allsop, the author of Columbia Journalism Review’s newsletter, his response was focused on the press not two-siding midterms stories: “Mainstream media should cover the midterms like they should cover any political story at the moment—by avoiding treating the two parties as equal and opposite ‘sides’ when they aren’t, especially when it comes to the preservation of U.S. democracy. I think that many reporters and editors have woken up to the Republican assault on democracy in recent years—and others didn’t need waking up in the first place—but good, urgent coverage of the threat still tends to get siloed away from the horse-race punditry, which still often seems to start from the premise that the track is even. We need to see more joined-up thinking here and that will require focus, which will be a particular challenge amid a news cycle dominated by war and with so many other important stories to cover.”….Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at NYU, told me that the media should “redraw the baseline for election-year conflict. Instead of just assuming it’s Democrats vs. Republicans in a familiar battle for control of government, start with a more urgent contest: those from both parties who still abide by the norms of American democracy vs. those who have demonstrated they do not—the Trump loyalists in the GOP, the Stop the Steal movement, the crazed conspiracy mongers, the Christian nationalists. Redirect the bulk of your reporting resources to this newer conflict, while keeping a careful eye on the ‘state of the race’ between the two parties.”….The idea that media should have a prodemocracy bias is a good one. It would help us focus on politicians straying from democratic norms, and highlight antidemocratic plays like disenfranchising voters.”

Greenberg: Dems must Offer a hopeful vision where all Americans make progress

The following article excerpt by Stanley Greenberg, co-author of ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’  and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

I was totally persuaded by William Galston and Elaine Kamarck’s 1989 study, The Politics of Evasion, when they wrote, “Too many Americans have come to see the party as inattentive to their economic interests, indifferent if not hostile to their moral sentiments, and inattentive in defense of their national security.” At the time, I too was tired of winning only one presidential election over two decades, and averaging 42 percent of the vote.

In their new report, The New Politics of Evasion, I share their analysis on many of the same problems that keep the Democratic Party “in the grip of myths that block progress toward victory.” Count me in as an ally when they write now that Democrats have taken “stances on fraught social issues … that repel a majority of Americans,” and have failed to defuse the oft-repeated contention that they want to “defund the police.” Count me in when they write that “social, cultural, and religious issues” are at least as real as “economic considerations” in determining how people vote. And they are right that imposing a “politics of identity” on Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans put Democrats out of touch with the priorities of these populations: ending the COVID crisis, providing affordable health care, and reopening schools, getting higher pay, and checking big corporate power.

I thank Galston and Kamarck for raising these issues. But unfortunately, you don’t get any further help from them on removing the blinders that keep you from seeing America.

(More Here)

Teixeira: Never Underestimate the Value of Common Sense!

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 are bleeding voters, particularly working class voters of all races. There are lots of reasons for this and I’ve written about some of them. One important throughline here is what we might call the common sense problem. As in, Democrats seem to have abandoned it in many areas.

This helps explain why there hasn’t been a ”Trump disenchantment dividend” for the Democrats as the former President’s popularity has fallen and for that matter a “nutty GOP politicians” dividend as various Republican pols do and say fairly crazy things. Voters just aren’t sure the Democrats are that well-grounded either.

Awhile ago, I tried to codify some of voters’ common sense views and values into ten short statements to illustrate how Democrats are losing the plot relative to the median voter. I’ll go through some of them here with the aid of some new data demonstrating how widely this common sense is embraced by ordinary Americans in contrast to their rejection by woke liberal activists and some politicians associated with the Democratic party.”

1. Equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not.Americans love equal opportunity! But lately more and more Democrats have embraced, implicitly or explicitly, the idea that we must equalize outcomes as well by emphasizing policies that promote “equity” as opposed to simple equality.

But Americans’ common sense is that opportunities should be made equal if they are not and then let people achieve as they will. There is no guarantee, nor should there be, that everyone will wind up in the same place.

The statement above was tested in the very liberal state of Massachusetts by pollster Louis DiNatale who was interested in my ten statements and added them to some of his polls. (I should note that my statements were simply tested as is, rather than reworded for survey purposes, but the results are still quite interesting I think). On this statement, DiNatale found that Massachusetts voters overall agreed with the statement by 61 percent to 16 percent. Republican voters agreed with the statement by 72-12, but so did independent voters by 65-13 and even Democrats by 56-17. White voters endorsed the statement by 63-12 but so did black voters by 56-17.

There just isn’t much of a constituency for equality of outcomes.

2. America is not perfect but it is good to be patriotic and proud of the country. Americans know their country isn’t perfect but they are proud of it anyway. And they don’t view it as fundamentally flawed and tarnished in the way so many progressive activists do. Rather they would echo Bill Clinton’s assertion that “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America”

In the Massachusetts poll, the statement above drew lopsided 66-25 support, including 60 percent or more of all racial groups. This is consistent with data collected by the More in Common group. Their data separated out a group they termed “progressive activists” who were 8 percent of the population (but punch far above their weight in the Democratic party) and are described as “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media”.

These progressive activists’ attitude toward their own country departs greatly from not just that of average Americans but from pretty much any other group you might care to name, including average nonwhite Americans. Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans, in fact, are highly likely to be proud to be Americans and highly likely to say they would still choose to live in America if they could choose to live anywhere in the world. In contrast, progressive activists are loathe to express these sentiments For example, just 34 percent of progressive activists say they are “proud to be American” compared to 62 percent of Asians, 70 percent of blacks, and 76 percent of Hispanics.

Patriotism is a fundamental American value that some parts of the Democratic party now seem reluctant to embrace. That’s a problem.

3. Discrimination and racism are bad but they are not the cause of all disparities in American society. It’s truly amazing the extent to which Democrats have become associated with the view that disparities in American society can only be attributed to oppression and discrimination, particularly when it comes to race. No other explanation need apply.

But this defies common sense and is not the way normal voters see it, including normal nonwhite voters. In the Massachusetts poll, the statement above generates overwhelming 72 to 20 percent agreement, with 63 percent of blacks, 70 percent of Asians and 65 percent of Hispanics concurring.

It may be easy to convince left-leaning academics and progressive activists that the mere existence of disparities is proof of discrimination and racism. But the American people are a harder sell.

4. No one is completely without bias but calling all white people racists who benefit from white privilege and American society a white supremacist society is not right or fair. The blanket characterization of all whites as racists because of “systemic racism” from which they benefit, regardless of their individual conduct, is a commonplace in Democratic activist circles, as is the idea that white supremacy is a fair characterization of contemporary American society. These dubious assertions, however, fail the common sense test among actual voters.

In the Massachusetts poll, the statement above, that these assertions are not right or fair, received 59-21 agreement overall, with even black voters and Democrats more than 2:1 in agreement. This is likely another case where the common understanding in Democratic activist circles is not the common sense of ordinary Americans or even of the groups these activists claim they are representing.

5, Racial achievement gaps are bad and we should seek to close them. However, they are not due just to racism and standards of high achievement should be maintained for people of all races. Democrats are becoming increasingly associated with an approach to schooling that seems anti-meritocratic, oriented away from standardized tests, gifted and talented programs and test-in elite schools, generally in the name of achieving racial equity. This has led them to a de-emphasis on high and universal academic achievement standards, an approach popular in progressive education circles but not among ordinary voters, including nonwhites.

In the Massachusetts poll, the above statement received 73-19 support, including 3:1 support among black voters. Progressive educators may think differently, but the common sense of voters is that the road to high academic achievement is through high standards and hard work, not the lowering of bars.

6. Police misconduct and brutality against people of any race is wrong and we need to reform police conduct and recruitment. More and better policing is needed for public safety and that cannot be provided by “defunding the police”. Nowhere is the departure of Democrats from the common sense of ordinary voters more evident than on the issue of crime and policing. Democrats are associated with a wave of progressive public prosecutors who seem quite hesitant about keeping criminals off the street, even as a spike in violent crimes like murders and carjacking sweeps the nation. This is twinned to a climate of tolerance and non-prosecution for lesser crimes that is degrading the quality of life in many cities under Democratic control.

The fact is that ordinary voters hate crime and want something done about it. They’re not particularly impressed by disembodied talk about the availability of guns that does not include enforcing the law against the criminals who actually use these guns. Nor do they respond well to assurances that progressive approaches to law enforcement that include less law enforcement will—eventually—work even as crime surges and the quality of life deteriorates.

Reflecting these views, voters in the Massachusetts poll endorsed the statement above by 63-26. This included 64-24 support among whites, but also 2:1 support among blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Ordinary voters don’t want the crime issue racialized, they simply want it stopped and they know you need cops to do it.

Like with the other statements discussed above, it could be argued that this statement is too easy to agree with and is just common sense. But if it’s just common sense, why do so many Democrats have trouble saying these things? The fact that they do explains a great deal about the Democrats’ current woes.