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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Battle of the Burbs Likely to Shape 2024 Election(s)

Some insights for Democrats in “Black Voters Are Transforming the Suburbs — And American Politics: An influx of Black voters into suburbia holds enormous promise for Democrats, but Republicans are fighting back” by David Siders, Sean McMinn, Brampton Booker and Jesus A. Rodriguez at Politico:

Around the country, the number of Black people living in U.S. suburbs ballooned during the first two decades of this century, increasing from 8.8 million to 13.6 million nationwide, according to POLITICO Magazine’s analysis. Today, more than one-third of Black Americans live in suburban areas — the fastest-growing areas in the country for Black people.

At first blush, the suburbanization of the Black vote holds enormous promise for Democrats, pushing the party’s most loyal base of voters into suburban areas that, in recent election cycles, have determined the balance of power in Congress and the presidency. According to a POLITICO Magazine analysis of election results from last month’s midterms, Democrats dominated suburban districts that saw a large influx of Black residents over the last two decades. Even in red states like Texas, where the Black population is eclipsed by white and Latino voters, Black people are by far Democrats’ most dependable constituency, with 84 percent of Black voters in Texas last month casting Democratic ballots in the state’s gubernatorial race, compared to 57 percent of Latinos and 33 percent of whites, according to exit polls.

“When you think about the suburbs becoming more diverse,” said Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, “it just creates a way more efficient distribution of Democratic votes, where they’re not as packed into the cities.”

The most recent example: the once reliably red state of Georgia, which has shifted in favor Democrats in the last two election cycles. The historic Senate runoff this month featured for the first time in modern Georgia — and one of the handful of instances in American politics — two Black nominees: incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and an activist pastor who leads Martin Luther King Jr.’s church in Atlanta, and Republican Herschel Walker, a former running back and Heisman Trophy winner who had the backing of former president Donald Trump. Warnock’s victory, by roughly 97,000 votes, was secured by maintaining Democratic gains in counties that had traditionally voted Republican, including the Atlanta suburbs of Cobb and Henry counties.

The authors also note that “The migration of Black populations away from city centers to the nation’s suburbs is happening across the U.S., from southern cities like Houston and New Orleans to midwestern cities like Chicago to western cities like Oakland and Los Angeles, and all down the East Coast, from New York to Washington to Atlanta.” Further,

For Democrats laboring to take advantage of the rapidly diversifying suburbs, a bigger challenge isn’t the Black candidates Republicans are running, but total Republican control over redistricting in states like Texas. The constitutionally authorized process, by which state legislatures take census data and redraw their congressional maps, often means whichever party controls a state legislature gets to shape districts to its benefit — as long as there is no overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination.

According to the progressive Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans controlled the drawing of 177 House districts in 19 states, or 41 percent of the lower chamber’s seats, in redistricting’s last round. Democrats, by comparison, control redistricting in seven states, or 11 percent of seats. (Other states use less partisan venues to draw maps, such as independent commissions or courts, which represent 40 percent of House seats.) In the past, Republicans have used the process to draw maps that dilute the voting power of urban areas, which tend to elect Democrats, by carving them up and joining them with more conservative suburbs. But voting rights experts say that Republicans are increasingly targeting the suburbs themselves, which are becoming more liberal as Black voters and other voters of color move there. Their strategy: merging those diversifying suburban districts with rural areas, which tend to vote red.

The diversification of America’s ‘burbs’ is a pivotal trend, juiced by accelerating in-migration in many southern and western states. Much depends on how well the Democrats craft their messaging in these areas in 2024.

Teixeira: The Democrats’ Nonwhite Working Class Problem

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

With all the Democratic back-patting going on, I’m not sure they’re really facing up to an emerging problem that severely undermines their electoral theory of the case. I speak of their declining margins with the nonwhite working class. That’s not to say they don’t still carry the nonwhite working class vote, it’s just they carry it by a lot less. That wasn’t in the “rising American electorate” battle plan.

As I have previously noted, AP/NORC VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.

That’s the national data. It’s interesting to look at the state-level data to see some of these places where this pattern manifested itself.

Arizona. The 2020 Presidential election and 2022 gubernatorial election were both extremely close. Interestingly, while Democrat Katie Hobbs ran quite a bit ahead of Biden among white college voters, she actually ran 3 points behind among nonwhite working class voters.

California. Gavin Newson in 2022 ran considerably behind Biden in 2020. One place where he kept almost all of Biden’s support from 2020 was among white college voters. In contrast, he lost a lot of support among nonwhite working class voters: 14 points.

Florida. Ron DeSantis of course ran way ahead of Trump in his 2022 gubernatorial race—about 16 points. But he ran 27 points ahead among nonwhite working class voters. And he did 38 points (!) better among nonwhite working class voters this year than he did in his initial 2018 gubernatorial race.

Georgia. Brian Kemp ran ahead of Trump in his 2022 re-election, albeit not on DeSantis’ level. But he did 16 margin points better among nonwhite working class voters and, compared to his initial election bid in 2018, also against Stacey Abrams, did 27 points better among those voters.

Pennsylvania. John Fetterman ran almost 4 points ahead of Biden in his successful bid for the Senate. Interestingly, as confirmed by an analysis on 538, he actually did even better than that among white working class voters in the state. But the Fetterman magic did not extend to nonwhite working class voters. He did an astonishing 21 points worse among these voters.

Texas. Greg Abbott ran about 5 points ahead of Trump in 2022. He did even better than that among nonwhite working class voters, running 15 points ahead of Trump across the state.

This pattern did not hold everywhere but it held in enough places to give the Democrats plenty to worry about. And, as noted above, we are now talking about a general trend of fairly long standing.

Amberg: Dems Can Build on Recent Success with Focus on Economic Equity

Stephen Amberg, author of A Democracy That Works: How Working-Class Power Defines Liberal Democracy in the United States, explains why “The 2022 midterm results show how the US party realignment is continuing” at the Long Read of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Among his observations:

“The 2022 midterm election is confirmation that the US turned the corner in 2020 from the neoliberal party system that has dominated since the 1980s. There is no guarantee the process will continue, and many forces are in play, but the Biden administration and Democratic Congress not only delivered policies that take a new post-neoliberal direction in economic strategy…..Democrats were liberal on cultural issues and favored equal economic opportunity, which, they argued, could be secured in the new economy by targeted social investments in education and health care, retraining, and entitlement reform. But, like other leftwing parties in Europe, the Democrats alienated the working-classes and played into the hands of rightwing critics who labeled them frauds and elitists….”

The Republican Party has moved its campaign messaging to the far right. What else could it do? The Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Their neoliberal governing strategy became very unpopular. Deregulation of finance and bailouts of banks, free trade and off-shoring jobs, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of civil rights and voting rights, cutbacks in pensions, education, and health care, lagging the minimum wage behind inflation, privatization of the veterans’ health care system and Medicare — none of it is popular. In contrast, this year’s Democratic attacks on corporate profiteering, raising taxes on corporations, guaranteeing health care, increasing the minimum wage, and forgiving some student debt polled very well.”

Amberg notes further that “The Biden administration is the most pro-labor administration since John F. Kennedy’s. The historically outstanding 2022 results confirm the potential of the new Democratic strategy. If they stick to the strategy, they can establish dominance in the party system.” In addition,

….Of course, the Biden administration struggled for a year to corral Senate votes to pass the progressives’ plans; in the end, Congress passed only part of it. But the important points are, first, it did pass quite a lot and, second, the Biden Democrats are rejecting the Republicans’ definition of electoral space and they are expanding political possibilities. Just this year Democrats passed major bills for energy and climate action, infrastructure investment, a corporate minimum tax, the CHIPS and Science Act that asserts a new industry policy, including microchip manufacturing in the US, reduced ACA health insurance premiums for nine million people, expanded Medicare benefits and capped insulin prices, increased funding for veterans, the military, and local police, and passed the Safer Communities Act to address gun violence and mental health. Congressional Republicans almost all voted against every bill. Biden ordered up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness with an income cap, rallied NATO to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, and is keeping Trump’s trade pressure on China.

“The Democrats’ new definition of politics contrasts with the Republicans’ messaging about the “elites vs. the people,” Amberg writes. “Biden Democrats are organizing an “equitable economy vs. corporate power” cleavage. This has a distinct working-class dimension to it, but now understood as an “intersectional” working-class. This theme contributed to victories in Pennsylvania, Ohio Congressional races, and in Michigan, Minnesota and elsewhere. The Progressive Caucus in the Congress is adding members.”

Amberg concludes, “Can the Democrats stick to the equitable economy theme against Republican Congressional opposition and corporate hostility? In their favor, the laws already passed earlier this year are going to be implemented and people will receive the benefits. In 2023, the Democrats will still have control of the White House and the Senate, guaranteeing approval of Biden’s judges and executive appointments. They can do a lot to sustain the momentum in the next two years.”

Teixeira: Ten Reasons Why Democrats Should Become More Moderate

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

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, I sometimes think the slogan of the Democratic party’s left is: “Extremism in the defense of progressivism is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of votes is no virtue”. Here are ten reasons why that approach is dead wrong and why Democrats need to fully and finally reject it if they hope to break the current electoral stalemate in their favor.

1. In the 2022 election, the reason why Democrats did relatively well was support from independents and Republican leaning or supporting crossover voters—not base voters mobilized by progressivism. These independents and crossover voters were motivated to support Democrats where they did because many Democrats in key races were perceived as being more moderate than their extremist Republican opponents. Moderation = Democratic votes.

2. In fact, as the Democratic party has moved to the left over the last four years, they have actually done worse among their base voters. They’ve lost a good chunk of their support among nonwhite voters, especially Hispanics, and among young voters. Since 2018, Democratic support is down 18 margin points among young (18-29 year old) voters, 20 points among nonwhites and 23 points among nonwhite working class (noncollege) voters. These voters are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative in orientation and they’re just not buying what the Democrats are selling. Moderation = Democratic votes.

3. Nor are Democrats making up for this loss of support with a surge in turnout generated by mobilizing their base groups in  a great progressive anti-MAGA crusade. In fact, Latino and black turnout was rather poor in this election as it was among Democrats overall. It turns out that the progressive base mobilization strategy hss a fatal flaw for the Democrats: the concerns of many of “their” voters do not track with the issues that motivate progressives. These voters would be more likely to turn out for a Democratic party associated with safe streets, a healthy economy and a sensible, non-divisive approach to social issues. Moderation = Democratic votes.

4. Democrats lost the House popular vote overall by 3 points in this election. That’s bad enough but they also lost the statewide House vote in seven (7!) states with Democratic-held Senate seats up in 2024. That includes four Biden states (Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and three Trump states (Montana, Ohio and West Virginia). But the Biden states were all carried by under 3 points (.3, 2.4, 1.2 and .6, respectively) while the Trump states were all crushing Democratic losses (16, 8 and 39 points, respectively). It defies logic to think Democrats can compete successfully across these House Republican-supporting states in 2024, especially if Republicans run halfway sane candidates, without burnishing their common sense, distanced-from-the-national-party credentials. More progressivism ain’t gonna do it. Moderation = Democratic votes.

5. Democrats did relatively well in 2022 by taking down extreme Republican candidates. But the fact remains that the party itself is still regarded as extreme, particularly in its tolerance of extremist groups. 53 percent of voters thought so in 2022. Granted, an identical 53 percent thought the same thing about the Republican party. But imagine how well the Democrats could do if they were viewed as much less extreme than the Republicans. Moderation = Democratic votes.

6. Moderate candidates generally do better than more ideological candidates and this election was no exception. That was certainly true for the Republican party, where Trumpy candidates paid a steep price relative to their saner counterparts. But Democrats who succeeded also ran moderate campaigns and sought to dissociate themselves from the generic progressive brand.

As Warnock’s campaign manager neatly put it:

There could have been other campaign operatives or another campaign that could have said, ‘OK, Herschel Walker has all this baggage, so we’re just going to run to the left and just try to turn out as many of our voters and just let Republicans eat their own. We didn’t do that.

To this day, strenuously progressive groups like Justice Democrats have yet to flip a single seat from the Republicans, despite an abundance of effort. You’d think they’d get the message. Moderation = Democratic votes.

7. Remember Trump-Biden voters—voters who supported Trump in 2016 but Biden in 2020? They and voters like them will loom large in 2024. According to polling this year by JL Partners, just 10 percent of Trump-Biden voters think we need to go farther on political correctness in society today, compared to 51 percent who think we’ve gone too far. The analogous numbers for teaching children about trans issues are 14 percent (go farther) and 36 percent (too far); for efforts to remove historical statues, 8 percent (go farther) and 62 percent (too far); for teaching children about critical race theory, 18 percent (go farther) and 34 percent (too far); for removal of people from jobs for past offensive comments, 12 percent (go farther) and 43 percent (too far); for Black Lives Matter protests, 10 percent (go farther) and 49 percent (too far); and for use of different gender pronouns, 10 percent (go farther) and 51 percent (too far). Since progressives want to press the accelerator on all these things, their approach doesn’t seem like a good fit for this important swing voter group—and really probably for any swing voter group. Moderation = Democratic votes.

8. In the 2022 election, Democrats’ national-facing strategy left some important things out, reflecting the priorities of the progressive groups and the social strata they represent. Stan Greenberg notes:

In the last two months of the midterm election, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans prioritized the cost of living and crime, despite Democrats not speaking about either. In the election survey, they prioritized cost of living, inflation, and economy and jobs—barely intersecting with the priorities of the national Democrats.

Common sense suggests you should pay attention to the issues voters are most concerned about, rather than just singing from the progressive hymnal. It would likely pay off at the ballot box. Moderation = Democratic votes.

9. Speaking of crime, here’s a way to break out of the stalemate and really establish your moderate bona fides (as a number of politicians like incoming Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro did). Greenberg again:

Democrats break through parity when they call out the handful of Democrats who decline to talk about violent crime and public safety and the need to get more police into our communities. A message that says Democrats will not “defund in any way” and support “first responders” gets 7 points more warm than cool responses, in a midterm electorate that Republicans won by 3 points. Tackling your own party on crime is a good way for Democrats to break through.

Say it loud: I’m moderate and I’m proud! The voters will reward you. Moderation = Democratic votes.

10. And one last point: Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to embrace patriotism and dissociate themselves from those who insist America is a benighted, racist nation and always has been. Large majorities of Americans, while they have no objection to looking at the both the bad and good of American history, reject such a one-sided, negative characterization. That includes many voters whose support Democrats desperately need but are now drifting away from them. Greenberg once again:

You can no longer ignore the finding that big majorities of Hispanics and Asian Americans are opposed to the teaching of critical race theory. It is seen as denying America as an exceptional nation.

Progressives may want to deny that but voters don’t want to hear it. It’s far too negative for them. That’s why: Moderation = Democratic votes.

So those are ten reasons Democrats should become more moderate. There really is no alternative. That is, if you want to win and win big.

Perez Interview Illuminates Path for Dems in Rural Districts

In his article at The Nation, “Democrats Can Win Rural Seats if They Listen to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez,” Nick Bowlin interviews the Democrat who won her party’s most impressive midterm upset in U.S. House races:

NICK BOWLIN: It’s common to hear that Democrats need to run as centrists to win rural areas. And it seems to me that you did things differently. You took strong progressive positions, but really honed in on a few that really matter to people in southern Washington. Does that seem right?

MARIE GLUESENKAMP PEREZ: Yes, I would say that is an astute assessment. My campaign was a reflection of my district, that’s why I was successful. Because that’s what matters, not any party dogma or particular label.

NB: It’s my understanding that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [the party’s arm for House races] didn’t spend on your behalf, is that right? How did you pull off the win with minimal party support?

MGP: The DCCC never put in any money. Near the very end, I believe the House Majority PAC did come in [The House Democratic caucus’s main Super PAC spent $300,000 on her behalf in the final week]. I listen to my friends at home. I found allies. I found neighbors. I built a coalition. And I really got to stay focused on what matters to my district.

It was very frustrating to never be taken seriously by many in the party establishment. But it’s also not surprising, because people like me who work in the trades are used to being treated like we’re dumb.

NB: Do you think that perception explains why it took so long for them to even consider you as a viable candidate?

MGP: Yes, I do. I don’t think they think that, but when I went to a meeting with the DCCC after I won, I asked, “How many of your candidates don’t have graduate degrees? How many didn’t go to college? How many work in the trades?” And they said, “I don’t know.” Well, maybe you should know. Maybe that should be important to you, because it’s important to many, many Americans.

They really need to reassess what they think makes a qualified candidate. I’m not special. There are a lot of people like me, who really can serve our districts who understand them deeply. We have got to do a better job of recruiting those folks to run if we want to be relevant in rural places.

NB: During the campaign, you talked a lot about the economic pressures that you and your family were under. Can you talk more about that?

MGP: Neither my husband nor I have health insurance, and, frankly, I went through most of my pregnancy without it. In my county, Skamania County, there’s only one health care service provider. There’s one plan for you, and it’s not a great one. Your options are pretty limited. Trying to find child care has been a nightmare. I’m on waitlists all over. There’s just a real shortage of the things that make life work.

NB: I’m glad you brought up health care monopolies in rural areas. When we talk about corporate consolidation and power in the US, these conversations can leave out the specific ways these issues impact rural economies. On the campaign trail, you talked a lot about right-to-repair and other monopoly issues. Can you say more about this?

MGP: Right-to-repair is honestly one of the biggest reasons that I ran for Congress. Democrats love to talk about how they support the trades or being pro-labor. I think this is this is a crisis for the middle class, and it’s a crisis for the trades. Supporting the trades means ensuring that there are things to fix. That’s also part of being an environmentalist, ensuring that we have things to fix, that things are made to last and we don’t dispose of them. And it’s about cars and tractors, but also electronic waste. This is about home medical equipment. It’s this creeping, metastasizing problem, and it’s taking away a fundamentally American part of our identity. DIY is in our DNA. And I really believe that we’re being turned into a permanent class of renters who don’t really own their stuff.

NB: What do you intend to do in Congress to address this?

MGP: I’m going to pass a right-to-repair bill. I’m talking to everybody I can about it. It’s about being able to fix and maintain your own stuff. It’s about making things last. For my business, I need there to be a used-car market. I need people to be able to fix their own cars, and meanwhile, BMW is taking the dipstick out a lot of their new cars. There are subscription services for your seat heaters to work! And it sounds silly—is that really a big problem? It’s going to be if we don’t get out ahead of this.

NB: Another thing you talked about on the campaign trail was public safety. I saw that Portland broke its annual murder record recently, but nationally, there’s no evidence that crime is up overall [Portland, Ore., is just outside of Gluensenkamp Perez’s district]. But there’s also the fact that national media mentions of crime skyrocketed during the midterms. So can you talk about public safety in a way that addresses the realities but doesn’t feed into fearmongering?

MGP: Even if a lot of the crime statistics haven’t gone up, it feels really bad to a lot of us. I think this is something Democrats can get wrong. We like to talk about the facts and the statistics—and not address the feelings. I had a car stolen the night before I flew out to DC. Luckily, we recovered it, but it just sucks. And so I think we need to meet people where they’re at and acknowledge that a lot of people don’t feel safe.

NB: Can you do that without kind of promoting some of the worst aspects of American policing?

MGP: Yeah, there’s a way to do it that brings back a sense of community. That’s the solution to the safety concerns, when you know your neighbors, when people have ownership in their communities, when small businesses are thriving, and there’s accountability.

NB: You campaigned hard on abortion access and child care costs, both issues that have a tendency to be framed as liberal. In your experience, did you find that leaning hard on these issues helped your cross-partisan appeal?

MGP: It’s so annoying that child care gets talked about as a woman’s issue. They only ever ask moms to talk to about it. But I believe it’s a big driver of our workforce shortage. One in 10 child care facilities has permanently shut down since 2019. That’s is a problem for our economy. And so I think framing it in that way—making it relevant to all of us, not just to people with kids under 5—makes sense to people, regardless of what party you’re affiliated. It makes sense to people that it should be a priority, for good governance and for an economy that works for everybody.

NB: What does the party not get about rural areas?

Greenberg: Why Dems Don’t Have to Settle for Battling to a Draw

The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, a founding partner of Greenberg Research, Democracy Corps, and Climate Policy & Strategy, and Prospect board member, a New York Times best-selling author and co-author of It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

The election results surprised many pundits and Republicans, but not those who were following the surveys conducted by Democracy Corps and the articles I wrote for the Prospect. They showed the Democrats with a small lead in the generic House vote in September. That slipped to a tie and 2-point deficit with October’s likely voters. With 107 million votes counted, Democrats are losing the House by a 3-point margin. The surveys showed the potential for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to disappoint those looking for an engaged base.

The very low turnout of African Americans and Hispanics was not surprising and likely cost us a greater Senate majority (one that might have been willing to get rid of the filibuster) and House control.

Many were relieved that Democrats defied history. I was angry.

We are at a moment where Democrats have a policy offer that makes lives appreciably better. Republicans just decry inflation and Democrats. They plant powerful cultural bombs that leave Democrats badly damaged on crime, the border, and love of country.

I was angry because in this campaign the White House was just cheerleading over a “strong economy,” and some leaders gave this message: Re-elect us because we accomplished so much. Instead, they could have shown sympathy on income and the cost of living, pushed back against corporate power, neutralized the crime issue, and grown their numbers.

More from Stanley B. Greenberg

Over 70 percent of eligible voters do not have a four-year degree, my measure of working-class. And in this midterm election, they were 61 percent of the voters. Over 80 percent of the Black and Hispanic voters were working-class, though that is usually closer to 70 percent in our campaign surveys.

And those voters were mad as hell about the economy. Two-thirds rated it “negatively” in my survey for Democracy Corps and PSG Consulting with 2,000 pre-election and Election Day voters. Two-thirds of voters said the country was on the wrong track. They were also mad as hell about the billions in campaign spending that corrupted politics. They are conscious that the biggest corporations, high-tech companies, and billionaires use their money and lobbyists to rig the game against working people.

They are mad as hell because they really haven’t seen a pay raise in two decades, which is even more true for African Americans and Hispanics. Their frustration was heightened by two decades of spiking growth in incomes and wealth for the top 1 percent and spiking spending on political campaigns.

The economy was the top issue for voters in 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022, of course. This year, maddening inflation stole away any marginal gain in wages. Everywhere in the world, working people are on a desperate edge, and the top issue is the cost of living and what governments are doing to help them.


Teixeira: The Democrats’ Tenuous Hold on the Suburbs

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

Democrats are feeling good about their prospects in 2024. There appears to be little interest in changing their party’s image, which remains pretty terrible in most voters’ eyes. As President Biden put it, when asked what he might do differently in the next two years to change voters’ perceptions:

Nothing, because they’re just finding out what we’re doing.  The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is.

Well….maybe. So far it doesn’t seem to be getting through. A recent poll found that just 22 percent of voters in battleground states could name a specific thing that President Biden and the Democratic majority in Congress have done in the last two years that has directly helped them in their lives.

The reason for Democrats’ odd complacency may be found in the story Democrats’ are telling themselves about the 2022 election and what it portends for 2024. It goes like this.

The Republicans are a semi-fascist party in thrall to Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. Voters, sparked by the Dobbs decision and ongoing threats to democracy, realized this, especially suburbanites, and voted accordingly. Therefore, it is not a question of whether/how voters have been directly helped by Democratic rule but rather what Democrats can guard against from the other side. Since Republicans are hopelessly MAGA and will not change, Democrats should be able to run the same playbook in 2024. QED.

Time for a reality check.

Start with the demographic contours of the suburban vote. The idea seems to be that the suburbs are full of liberal, highly-educated voters who are likely to be permanent recruits to the anti-MAGA army. There are certainly some, but actually-existing suburban voters are quite different—and more complex—than this caricature.

Contrary to popular perception, less than a third of the suburban vote nationwide is made up of college-educated whites, the presumed locus of maximum appeal for anti-MAGAism. In fact, about three-fifths of suburban white voters are working class (noncollege).

It is widely misunderstood how vital the latter voters were to Biden’s victory in 2020. While suburban white college voters shifted around 10 margin points toward Biden, suburban white working class voters also had a solid 5 point pro-Democratic shift. Because of this group’s larger size, their shift toward Biden contributed almost as much to the Democrats’ improved margin over Trump in 2020 as suburban white college voters.

And just how liberal are these college-educated voters anyway? Overall, according to Gallup, just 30 percent of adults with a four year degree only describe themselves as liberal and 36 percent of those with some postgraduate education (the less numerous group) do so. Putting this together with the data about suburban demographics, this implies that perhaps one-ninth (a third of a third) of suburban voters are white college-educated liberals. Perhaps the figure is a bit higher but I doubt that it’s much higher.

To drill down a bit further, consider some illustrative data from once and future battleground states. In Pennsylvania, suburban voters are either around urban cores in large metro areas (Philly, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton) or in small metro areas (Erie, Reading, Lancaster, York, etc). According to analysis by William Frey of Brookings, the former areas are 58 percent white noncollege to 29 percent white college, while the latter areas are 64 percent white working class to 23 percent white college.

In Wisconsin, the situation is no different. Suburbs around Milwaukee and Madison are 53 percent white working class to 37 percent white college while Wisconsin’s smaller metro areas (Oshkosh, Green Bay, Appleton, etc) are 65 percent white noncollege to 25 percent white college.

And in Georgia, the Atlanta and Augusta suburbs are 49 percent white working class to just 19 percent white college, while the small metro areas (Savannah, Macon, etc.) are 42 percent white noncollege to 18 percent white college. There are large proportions of black and secondarily Hispanic voters in these suburbs but they are generally less liberal than white college graduates and more focused on economic issues (only 33 percent of black voters and 22 percent of Hispanic voters in battleground states could name a specific thing that President Biden and the Democratic majority in Congress have done in the last two years that has directly helped them in their lives).

This suggests that Democrats’ hold on the suburban vote—such as it is—is far more tenuous than might be implied by the popular image of socially liberal, college-educated suburban voters who can no longer countenance voting for the GOP under any circumstances. Democrats’ target suburban voters must necessarily include legions of moderate and/or working class voters who might not draw as much sustenance from a steady diet of anti-MAGAism as Democrats anticipate.

And just how much hold do the Democrats have on suburban voters anyway? In the AP/NORC VoteCast survey, the most reliable election survey available, Democrats carried suburban voters nationwide by a single point in 2022. That’s a slippage of 9 points from the Democrats’ 10 point margin in 2020. Interestingly, the slippage in Democratic support from 2020 to 2022 was actually larger among nonwhite than white suburban voters.

These data indicate strongly that Democrats might not be in quite the catbird seat they think they are with suburban voters and therefore with the 2024 election. But they appear to have a touching faith that the anti-MAGA playbook will work anytime anywhere. As Jenifer Fernandez Ancona of the leftwing voter mobilization group Way to Win puts it:

I don’t think these fundamentals are going to drastically change. The pieces are in place right now for us to be able to continue to grow this anti-MAGA majority.

But what if Donald Trump is not the candidate in 2024—surely a very real possibility and one that might complicate their playbook? No problem says Simon Rosenberg, noted Democratic optimist and militant defender of the anti-MAGA strategy:

Ron DeSantis is every bit as MAGA as Donald Trump. This idea that he is some more moderate version of Trump is just farcical.

Therefore, the anti-MAGA playbook will be just as effective and we will win. QED. And what of the Republicans who might run for President or in Senate races who aren’t Trumpy loons blessed by the Orange One? You guessed it:

[Republican X] is every bit as MAGA as Donald Trump. This idea that he [or she] is some more moderate version of Trump is just farcical.

Well, it does have the virtue of simplicity. But these results from a new national Marquette Law School poll should provoke some caution on this approach. The poll found that Trump would lose smartly to Biden in a rematch but DeSantis would tie Biden. And, very interestingly, the poll found that DeSantis would carry every educational group but postgraduates. He carries high school dropouts by 16 points, high school graduates by 12 points and both the some college and four year college degree only groups by 2 points. But Biden carries the grad school contingent by 23 points!

Hmm. Maybe the Democrats should exchange their anti-MAGA playbook for a normie voter playbook. It just might come in handy in 2024.

Some Math Behind Warnock’s Victory

From “3 numbers that show how Raphael Warnock won the Georgia runoff” by Jessica Piper at Politico:

After edging out Walker on Election Day, Warnock narrowly improved on his margins across the state in the runoff. He was buoyed by strong enough turnout in the Atlanta area, particularly among Black voters. And he built up an advantage from early and mail voting that Republicans simply could not catch — a subject the GOP is belatedly addressing after its disappointing midterms….Here are the numbers that explain how the incumbent Democrat pulled it off.

More than 320,000 votes: Warnock’s advantage from mail and early voting

Georgia’s runoff results highlighted once again the recent partisan polarization of methods of voting. Since 2020, Republican leaders, including former President Donald Trump, have expressed skepticism of early and absentee voting methods — although a number of Republican leaders other than Trump appear to be rethinking that opposition after losses in Georgia and elsewhere….

….Despite records set in the first few days of early voting, there was still significantly less total early voting than in the January 2021 runoffs, when the early voting period was longer and overall turnout — including Election Day voting — topped 4.4 million, compared to only 3.5 million this year.

But the early and absentee vote still allowed Warnock to build a lead of more than 320,000 votes, which Walker was unable to overcome on Election Day. The GOP nominee won the Election Day vote by around 225,000 votes, not enough to put him over the top.

Just 26 out of 159 counties: Where Walker improved his margin compared to November

After trailing Warnock slightly in the November election that prompted the runoff, Walker either needed to shift turnout in his favor or improve his margins.

He couldn’t do it. Walker’s share of the two-party vote improved in just 26 of the state’s 159 counties, according to a POLITICO analysis of unofficial results reported by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The counties where he managed to improve were largely small and rural — accounting for just 5 percent of total votes cast in the state — so Walker could not bank enough votes to offset Warnock’s gains elsewhere.

Close enough to 90 percent: Turnout compared to November in Atlanta-area Democratic strongholds

Statewide turnout in the runoff was roughly 89 percent of what it was in November, with more than 3.5 million voters casting ballots this time. High turnout does not inherently benefit one candidate or the other. But Walker, who had trailed slightly in the November election, needed relatively higher turnout in GOP-friendly counties compared to Democratic-leaning ones. That did not substantially materialize….Most importantly for Warnock, Democratic strongholds in metro Atlanta saw relatively high turnout. In DeKalb County, turnout was higher than the state average. It was slightly lower in Clayton and Fulton counties, but Warnock improved his margin slightly in both, offsetting turnout losses.

And give it up for Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager, who did an outstanding job of overseeing GOTV strategy where it counted.

Teixeira: The Cultural Left (Still) Puts a Ceiling on Democratic Support

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

In September of last year I wrote:

The cultural left has managed to associate the Democratic party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. That’s a success for the cultural left but the hard reality is that it’s an electoral liability for the Democratic party. From time to time Democratic politicians like Biden try to dissociate themselves from super-unpopular ideas like defunding the police but the voices of the cultural left within the party are still more deferred to than opposed. These voices are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left. In an era when a party’s national brand increasingly defines state and even local electoral contests, Democratic candidates have a very hard time shaking these cultural left associations.

Since then we have had the 2022 election where Democrats did manage to hold off a red wave. They lost only 9 seats in the House, gained a seat in the Senate (at this point) and two governorships plus made progress in state legislatures. Have they broken through that ceiling? As the cultural left of the Democrats always maintains, is an aggressively left stance on these issues actually a feature not a bug of contemporary Democratic party practice?

Not really. That ceiling is still fully intact. Democrats lost the nationwide popular vote by 3 points (48-51), along with control of the House. Working class Democratic supportdeclined…..again (down 9 margin points). Hispanic support declined….again (down 11 points). Black support declined….again (down 14 points). Republicans got 40 percent of the Hispanic working class House vote and 45 percent among Hispanic men. They got 19 percent among black men, According to an AARP/Fabrizio Ward/Impact Research post-election survey, Democrats did not do any better among these demographics in competitive House districts. The did however clean up in these districts among white college graduate women, carrying them by 34 points.

This does not sound like a ceiling being broken. It’s more like the sound of stalemate. As several studies have shown, Trump-endorsed, MAGA-ish candidates managed to wipe out a good chunk of the expected swing toward Republicans, paying a penalty of about 5 points in their support levels relative to more conventional Republicans. On the other hand, Democrats went into the election with double digit disadvantages on immigration and the border (-24), reducing crime (-20), focusing enough on the economy (-20), valuing hard work (-15) and being patriotic (-10). Another pre-election survey by Stan Greenberg found that voters’ top worries if Democrats won full control of government were “crime and homelessness out of control in cities and police coming under attack,” followed by “the southern border being open to immigrants.”

As Greenberg noted, many Democrats have been:

[b]linded…from seeing the priorities and needs of working-class African American, Hispanic, and Asian American voters. Those were the voters who pulled back from their historic support for Democrats [in 2020]. To be honest, many assumed that battling long-standing racial inequities would be their top priority. But that assumption becomes indefensibly elitist when it turns out these voters were much more focused on the economy, corporate power, and crime….

From early 2020 onward, Democratic leaders showed no interest as far as voters could tell in addressing crime or making communities safer….. [R]esearch in the African American, Hispanic, and Asian American communities…pointed to the rising worry about crime. And they worried more about the rise in crime than the rise in police abuse. Yet Democrats throughout 2021 focused almost exclusively on the latter.

No wonder Republicans were able to pillory the Democrats on crime in 2022, including using the issue to great advantage in New York where they flipped four Democratic-held House seats. If the Democrats had held those seats they would have come within a whisker of holding the House. But Democrats, under the sway of the cultural left, persist in seeing the crime issue as little more than an excuse for racialized attacks by the right, rather than an actual concern of voters. In New York, Democrats have angrily blamed Eric Adams for their problems, because he has treated crime like a real issue and dared to suggest there might be problems with bail reform, a pet cause of the Democratic left.

Clearly, not much has changed since before the election when we were treated to articles like ”Crime is surging (in Fox News coverage)”. This when firearm homicide deaths among black men have reached highs not seen since the early 1990’s! I have termed this tendency among Democrats to resolutely disregard a real problem if conservatives are talking about it as the Fox News Fallacy. Apparently, it’s alive and well in the aftermath of the 2022 election.

Democrats should think long and hard about why, despite the GOP’s obvious and severe liabilities and its long roster of bonkers politicians and activists, they can’t do any better than the current stalemate. Consider these data from the AP/NORC VoteCast survey:

Too tolerant of extremist groups?

Democratic party, yes: 53 percent; Republican party, yes: 53 percent

Talks about politics in a way that is leading to acts of violence?

Democrats, yes: 54 percent; Republicans, yes: 56 percent


Favorable toward Joe Biden: 41 percent; favorable toward Donald Trump: 44 percent

Favorable toward Democratic party: 42 percent; favorable toward Republican party: 47 percent

How often do what’s right for the country?

Democratic party, all/most of time: 41 percent; Republican party, all/most of the time: 41 percent

These data clearly indicate that the Democratic party brand is still pretty terrible and doesn’t appear to have much of an advantage over its rivals. That ceiling on Democratic support remains.

Can the Democrats break through that ceiling? Another survey by Greenberg, conducted on election day, provides some insight. His survey, besides confirming the Democrats’ dreadful image in the areas enumerated above, had a very interesting finding on the crime issue. The survey found that the Democrats’ most powerful message on this currently damaging issue for them is:

Too many in my party thought it was not okay to talk about the growing violent crime problem in our community. They focused only on the police. From day one, we needed to rush more police, not defund in any way. Get criminals into jail. They weren’t listening to you. There are less than 5 members in the House who are for defunding. Five. They are extreme and don’t speak for the Democratic Party. The Democrats in the Congress are mainstream, and they voted to fund the Capitol police, ICE, and to increase the number of first responders in your communities.

Notice the forthright willingness to draw lines against those in their own party who espouse extreme, unpopular positions. This approach could easily be applied to other difficult issues where the Democrats’ cultural left is damaging the party’s brand and alienating normie voters: immigration, race essentialism, gender ideology, school curricula, even climate. There’s a world of possibilities here should the Democrats have the guts to try them and dump the Fox News Fallacy once and for all. If not, today’s unpleasant stalemate will likely continue.

Where the GOP’s ‘Crime Wave’ Meme Flunked….and Worked

Samantha Michaels has one of the more nuanced assessments of the effect of the GOP’s “crime wave” meme in the 2022 midterm elections. As Michaels writes at Mother Jones,

Leading up to the election, Republicans relentlessly blasted voters with campaign ads about crime, offering them brutal images of shootings and assaults and suggesting that if progressives got their way, murderers would run rampant on the streets and sex offenders would approach their children at barbershops. Journalists, too, fanned the flames, quoting voters across the nation who seemed terrified about the prospect of becoming victims. The only way to deal with the threats, some Republicans intoned, was to mount an aggressive and unforgiving campaign against criminals before the country devolved into chaos.

But amid the fearmongering, some Democratic candidates opted away from “tough on crime” messaging to focus instead on how they would change the criminal justice system, to make it more fair and effective. And on Tuesday, a substantial number of voters seemed willing to embrace their proactive vision: Perhaps to both parties’ surprise, many reform-minded candidates scored victories in the midterms.

In Pennsylvania’s closely watched Senate race, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz after underscoring his work on the state pardons board, where he gave second chances to some incarcerated people serving lengthy sentences. In New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul staved off Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s allegations that she hindered public safety by supporting bail reforms. And in Minneapolis, in the first election for a county attorney since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a former public defender and longtime critic of the police department won by a large margin over a former prosecutor with law enforcement endorsements.

Although Republicans with traditional “law and order” platforms triumphed in plenty of races, Tuesday did not bring the kind of election sweep they’d hoped for. “Fears that the crime-wave rhetoric would take down Democratic candidates just didn’t materialize at the national level,” says Insha Rahman at the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit think tank focused on criminal justice issues. “Voters saw past the scare tactics.”

Michaels adds that “Democrats jumped on the defense, putting out their own tidal wave of TV spots on the subject. All together, both parties spent an estimated $85 million on crime ads after Labor Day, more than in recent years. And voters seemed to absorb these messages, with poll after poll showing that crime was a key issue as they prepared their ballots.”

Michaels provides other examples of the failure of the ‘crime wave’ meme, but also notes,

That’s not to say crime didn’t matter, or that Republicans who fearmongered had no impact. In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won reelection after attacking Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes for being “dangerously liberal on crime,” in a tight Senate race that could help determine which party takes majority control. And in Georgia, another battleground state, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock lacked enough votes to avoid a runoff against Republican Herschel Walker, who falsely claimed that Warnock disrespected police and cut their funding.

“Tough on crime” rhetoric scored other victories, too: Ohio and Alabama voters passed ballot measures that make it easier to jail people before their trials, while those in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas rejected drug legalization measures. In San Francisco, moderate District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who took office after the recall, maintained a big lead on Thursday despite criticisms that she hindered prosecutions of police.

And in some cases, progressive wins were too close for comfort. In Democratic strongholds that previously enacted controversial justice reforms, such as Oregon, where a 2020 ballot measure decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, or New York, where lawmakers enacted bail reforms the same year, Democrats found themselves in unusually tight races against Republicans. New York Gov. Hochul, for example, won by only 5 percentage points. “You have to wonder,” says Rahman, “are these candidates either losing ground or losing entirely, as we’ve seen with the sweep of the New York House races,” because they did not do enough to assure voters that reforms and public safety can go hand in hand?

Michaels writes that “Going forward, Democrats still have a lot of work to do on crime. They “may have dodged a bullet by avoiding the anticipated red wave” this year, says Rahman, “but this issue will continue to rear its head,” and “they need to seize the opportunity with a more proactive approach.”

Noting a Vera Institute study about public safety taken before the midterm elections, Michaels says the study found that “voters across the political spectrum gravitated away from ads that focused on fear and toward ads that highlighted concrete fixes….The vast majority of respondents wanted politicians to prevent crime, not just react to it. “Democrats should continue to lead with how they are supporting fairness, transparency, better use of resources, and why that improves public safety, and not just respond to these ads and say, ‘I’m tough on crime too,’ because that’s not the answer,” says Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a senior director at the Brennan Center for Justice, another think tank.”