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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Edsall: Dems Must Harmonize Message and ‘Brand’

In his column, “Democrats Are Making Life Too Easy for Republicans” at The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall writes,

Ruy Teixeira, co-editor of the Liberal Patriot, argues in an email that “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.”

Teixeira went on: “The current Democratic brand suffers from multiple deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to wide swathes of American voters who might potentially be their allies.”

In Teixeira’s view, many Democrats have fallen victim to what he calls the “Fox News Fallacy.”

“This is the idea,” Teixeira explained, “that if Fox News criticizes the Democrats for X, then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often.” For example, he wrote, “Take the issue of crime. Initially dismissed as simply an artifact of the Covid shutdown that was being vastly exaggerated by Fox News and the like for their nefarious purposes, it is now apparent that the spike in violent crime is quite real and that voters are very, very concerned about it.”

Edsall quotes a number of political scientists, who affirm Teixeira’s argument, including John Halpin, a co-editor of The Liberal Patriot, who adds,

The biggest problem ahead of 2022 midterms is that voters don’t think Biden and the Democrats are focused on the issues that matter most to them. If you look at the most recent Wall St. Journal poll, Democrats are currently suffering double-digit deficits compared to Republicans on perceptions about which party is best able to handle nearly all of the issues that matter most to voters: for example, rebuilding the economy (-13), getting inflation under control (-17), reducing crime (-20), and securing the border (-26). Democratic advantages on issues like education are also down considerably from just a few years ago.

Edsall also quotes Third Way Vice President Matt Bennett, who notes, “Of the 12 House Democratic freshmen who lost last cycle — on a ticket with a winning presidential candidate — all were seriously hurt by culture war attacks.”

Edsall shares the perspecive of one of the critics of this view, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, who observes,

party messaging largely remains dominated by reaction and fear rather than boldness. Those fears seem rooted in a panic that progressive values will be seen as less American — when the reality is that ideas like academic freedom, preventing censorship, and a belief in inquiry, including science, are the core beliefs of this nation. It’s past time for President Biden and other leaders of the Democratic Party to approve this message….The white working class is a much more diverse group than commentators from all sides tend to credit….I think the greatest cause of resentment is lack of educational and related career opportunities that have shut out the working class of all races. The Democrats are philosophically wired to expand these opportunities — through free community college and trade school, for example — yet have failed to make these a priority, ensuring a continued sense that Dems are now the party of self-enlightened degree holders looking down on them. That cycle can and must be broken.

Then there’s media critic Dan Froomkin, who calls ‘critical race theory’ a “phony issue….that serves as a stalking horse for inciting white grievance.” Froomkin adds, “I have been horrified at how credulously many political reporters have written about Republican lies — and how impressed they were at their alleged (but entirely unproven) effectiveness. They wrote about it as if it were a real problem, rather than an obvious, bad-faith attempt to manufacture white panic.”

A bright young Democratic left activist I know agrees, and argues that “the ‘culture wars are a distraction from the more important economic wars,” which is true. But that doesn’t make the problem go away.

As Edsall concludes, “What we can be sure of is that the Democrats can’t go on forever with this much of a gulf between what the majority of progressive party activists think the party should stand for and what the majority of Americans think it should.”

Teixeira: Are Dems Losing Edge With Black Working Class?

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

On the Reliability of Black Support for Democrats

I am not so sure that support is as reliable as most Democrats assume. I see signs of erosion, particularly among black working class voters. I discuss and analyze the relevant data in my new post at The Liberal Patriot.

“It has been widely noted that the Hispanic vote was relatively poor for the Democrats in 2020. But that wasn’t the Democrats’ only disappointment among nonwhite voters. Democratic margins among black voters also declined by 7 points, though not by nearly as much as among Hispanics (16 points, Catalist two party vote). Moreover, while absolute turnout for black voters was up, as it was for almost all groups in a very high turnout election, turnout did not go up as much for black voters as for other groups, so relative turnout fell…..

This is a bit of a puzzle. Trump was widely and correctly viewed as a racist, a perception that was turbocharged by the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. And the Democratic party and Biden were certainly all in on BLM, so you could hardly ask for an election where the profile of the racial justice issue was any higher. And yet….the expected surge in black support and turnout for Democrats failed to appear.

One possibility is that Democrats overestimated the salience of the racial justice issue, perhaps especially as it unfolded around the BLM movement. Black voters, particularly working class voters, do after all have other concerns rooted in material, kitchen-table concerns….

[B]lack voters are not a monolith and cannot be assumed to belong to the Democrats simply on the basis of racial justice advocacy and rhetoric. In the end, the loyalty of black voters depends crucially on the ability of the Democrats to provide material improvements in their lives, particularly for those in working class and poor communities.

This helps explain why the black shift toward Trump in 2020 wound up being heavily concentrated among black working class (noncollege) voters. A forthcoming States of Change detailed re-analysis of 2020 election data not only shows this pattern nationally but also indicates that black margin shifts toward Trump in key states from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Florida, Georgia and Nevada were driven entirely or overwhelmingly by black working class voters.

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

Brownstein: Why Dems Midterm Hopes Focus More on Senate

In “Biden States Will Decide Who Controls the Senate,” Ronald Brownstein writes at CNN Politics,

The one silver lining for Democrats on an otherwise stormy political horizon may be the map of states with competitive Senate races this fall.

All of the Senate contests both sides consider the most competitive will be in states that Joe Biden won in 2020, albeit in most cases narrowly.

That geography could provide a critical boost for beleaguered Democrats in an era when both parties are finding it more difficult to win Senate races in states that usually vote the other way for president. That dynamic has grown so powerful that each party now holds just three of the 50 Senate seats in the 25 states that voted against their presidential candidates in the 2020 election.

None of the three Democratic senators in states that then-President Donald Trump won in 2020 is on the ballot this fall, which leaves the battlefield centered overwhelmingly on terrain Biden captured. But Biden’s eroding job approval numbers could undermine that potential geographic advantage. Each side has won very few 21st-century Senate races, either with incumbents or for open seats, in states where the approval rating is lagging for a president of its party.

Brownstein quotes Democratic pollster Celionda Lake, who worked for presidential candidate Biden in 2020: “It’s not just a referendum on Biden. In Senate races you have the resources to make it a real choice; it doesn’t have to be a derivative choice of an affirmation of the president or not.”

Bronwnstein adds, “Unless Biden can get a second wind before November, especially in states that he won, the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate will turn on whether she’s right.” He notes that ticket-splitting is more of a rarity in recent elections: “Just 1 in 6 people split their votes between presidential and Senate races in the 1990s, according to  [Alan I.] Abramowitz’s calculations. The number of split-ticket voters, though oscillating somewhat from election to election, has fallen even further during presidential contests in this century, frequently dropping to only about 1 in 10.” Further,

The numbers were even more dramatic after 2020: Republicans now hold 94% of the seats in the states that voted for Trump two times. (That reflects their hold of 47 of the 50 Senate seats in the 25 states he carried in 2020, since all of them also voted for him in 2016.) Twenty states voted against Trump both times: Democrats now control 98% of their Senate seats — all but the one held by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

The remaining five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — flipped from supporting Trump in 2016 to backing Biden in 2020. Democrats now hold eight of their 10 Senate seats.

Bronwstein argues that  the GOP’s “chances are best against Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, a state Trump lost only narrowly each time, but Republicans also believe they can threaten New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and even Colorado’s Michael Bennet if a big enough red wave develops.”

None of the three Democratic senators in states Trump won in 2020  “Montana’s Jon Tester, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — is up for reelection this fall. All might have faced very difficult odds in this political environment.” But Republicans are investing heavily in winning back seats held by Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (AZ) and Raphael Warnock (GA), both of whom are running for a six-year term. Worse,

The clear message of midterm elections in this century is that Biden’s approval rating will cast a huge shadow over the contests in all three of these categories. In 2018, for instance, Republicans lost all 10 of the Senate races in states where Trump’s approval rating registered at 48% or below, according to the exit polls conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of media organizations including CNN.

Similarly, in the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats lost 14 of the 15 Senate races in states where Obama’s approval rating stood at 42% or less, according to the exit polls. In 2010, Democrats likewise lost 13 of the 15 where Obama stood at 47% or less. In 2006, Republicans lost 19 of the 20 Senate races in states where President George W. Bush’s job approval stood at 45% or less.

Those are scary precedents for Democrats, because Biden’s approval ratings are lagging in the key states on the Senate map. Recent public polls show his job approval at 43% in Wisconsin and between 35% and 40% in Georgia, New Hampshire and Florida. On a slightly different metric, only 3 in 10 described his performance as excellent or good in a recent Pennsylvania poll.

Brownstein notes “occasional exceptions, such as Collins’ victory in 2020 in a state Biden won comfortably, or the 2018 victories of Democratic Sens. Manchin, Tester and Brown in states where Trump’s approval rating in the exit polls exceeded 50%.” Also, “A January Quinnipiac poll in Georgia, for instance, put Warnock’s approval rating there 11 percentage points higher than the President’s — and a striking 15 points better with independents.”

Democrats shouldn’t expect much midterm benefit from Trump’s troubles, Brownstein believes. But Republicans have “flawed candidates who are stuck in vicious expensive primaries that will drain their resources and leave their eventual nominee badly out of step with the voters that decide the general election in their states,” as David Bergstein, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says. Brownstein calls this is “a real risk for the GOP particularly in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

Navigating Biden’s Latest Approval Ratings

Some insights from excerpts of a FiveThirtyEight chat in response to the question, “Is Biden’s Approval Rating Really Rebounding?

sarah (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): In the last two weeks or so, President Biden’s approval rating has ticked up from 41.1 percent to 42.9 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker.1 The share of Americans who disapprove of the job he’s doing has ticked down, too, from 53.6 percent to 52.3 percent.

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, senior elections analyst): It’s impossible to totally disentangle all the events of the past month or so, but I think the simplest answer (which is usually the right one) is the crisis in Ukraine.

According to Marist/NPR/PBS, Biden’s approval/disapproval spread on the issue of Ukraine shot up from 34/50 in mid-February to 52/44 in early March. His overall approval/disapproval increased from 39/55 to 47/50. And according to Morning Consult/Politico, his approval/disapproval on Ukraine went from 42/45 in late February to 46/42 in early March. His overall approval/disapproval went from 41/56 to 45/51 over that same span….And I think overall media coverage has had more to do with that than the State of the Union.

ameliatd (Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, senior writer): A recent Morning Consult poll indicated Democrats and independents were driving the shift in Biden’s approval

geoffrey.skelley: It’s really hard to say. Some polls have shown Biden gaining, while others have shown his approval largely unchanged. For instance, CBS News/YouGov put Biden’s approval at 44 percent in late February, and at 43 percent (so basically the same) a week and a half into March.

nrakich: Yeah, Quinnipiac also found his overall approval/disapproval mostly unchanged, from 35/55 in mid-February to 38/51 in early March, even as Americans warmed to his handling of Ukraine, which went from 34/54 to 42/45.

sarah: So … maybe Biden’s approval rating isn’t rebounding?

ameliatd: Well, I think it’s important to remember that this is happening in the context of a big spike in gas prices — which would normally be terrible news for a president’s approval rating.

ameliatd: One thing that is shifting, though, is that Americans are more likely to see Russia as an enemy and more likely to see Ukraine as a friendly country or an ally. Interestingly, that shift is happening among both Republicans and Democrats, which could explain why we’re not seeing more of a shift in Biden’s approval rating. People are having a reaction to the war — maybe even an emotional one — but it’s dampened by partisanship.

nrakich: Well, his approval rating on the pandemic has actually improved. In fact, in our coronavirus presidential approval tracker, he rose above water in early March for the first time since early January.

sarah: There’s also some evidence that Americans don’t trust Democrats to handle the pandemic as much as they once did. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that voters thought Democrats were best able to handle the pandemic — compared to Republicans — by an 11-point margin, but that’s down 5 percentage points from mid-November….Moreover, as Geoffrey said, the pandemic isn’t the key issue it once was for voters; instead, it’s the economy. And on that issue, Biden gets abysmal ratings. Sixty-three percent of voters said they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation and rising costs in that Wall Street Journal poll, with 47 percent saying they thought Republicans were best equipped to handle inflation, versus 30 percent who preferred Democrats.

All of these comments could be written in sand, depending on what happens over the next few months with headline issues, like Covid, inflation and the Ukraine. There is a historic pattern of the President’s party losing seats in congress in its first midterm election. It looks like inflation will be an additional negative factor for Biden and the Democrats, while Covid and the Ukraine crisis could play out in their favor….or not.

In addition, a host of other issues, demographic factors, candidate and campaign quality, voter suppression and partisan election counts could all play a role in midterm election outcome. Even if historic patterns prevail, Biden and the Democrats can minimize the damage with smart strategy.

Teixeira: Are Dems Losing the Multiracial Working Class?

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

Is the GOP Becoming the Party of the Multiracial Working Class?

In my view, Democrats are far too complacent about this possibility. I discuss in my latest at The Liberal Patriot:

“Republicans have increasingly been talking about becoming the party of the multiracial working class. This is less far-fetched than you might think. After all, in a loose sense they already are. In the 2020 election, Trump carried the overall working class (noncollege) vote by 4 points (Catalist two party vote), about the same margin he had in 2016. The same data source also shows Republicans carrying the working class Congressional vote in three of the last four elections (the exception was 2018 when the working class vote was split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats).

Democrats have generally comforted themselves that their poor performance among the working class was purely a matter of white working class voters, who they presumed were motivated by retrograde racial and cultural attitudes. But since 2012, nonwhite working class voters have shifted away from the Democrats by 18 margin points, with a particularly sharp shift in the last election and particularly among Hispanics. This gives Democrats’ nonchalance about their losing record among working class voters a bit of a whistling past the graveyard quality.

Data since the 2020 election confirm a pattern of declining Democratic support among the nonwhite working class. Put another way: education polarization, it’s not just for white voters anymore. As a result, Democratic strength among the multiracial working class continues to weaken.”

Public Option Health Care at the State Level: Problems and Prospects

The Medicare for all cause has been derailed by grim political realities and distractions, including Covid, conservative Democrats and now Ukraine. In addition, experiments with state level ‘single payer’ systems have also tanked, Jean Yi reports at FiveThirtyEight. But Yi’s article also provides a more encouraging discussion of the possibilities for the public option at the state level. as Yi, writes, “Americans may have an appetite for a public option, or government-run health insurance that people can opt into at the state level.”

Yi explains that ” Three states (Colorado, Nevada and Washington) have already passed a public option. It’s not single-payer health care reform, but it’s possible that we might see more states adopt their own public-option reforms…..Colorado and Nevada, for instance, successfully passed a public option in 2021, joining Washington, which passed one in 2019. Colorado’s success in advancing a public option is particularly striking, given that almost 80 percent of people voted against its single-payer proposal in 2016.” Further, Yi writes,

To be sure, though, efforts to implement a public option aren’t without their own challenges. In 2021, during its first year of implementation, Washington state’s public option struggled to enroll people and get health care providers to agree to lower payment rates. State lawmakers have tried to fix this problem by introducing legislation that would require more providers to participate and bring down premiums by increasing subsidies. Proponents have also cautioned that it might take years before the public option really gains a foothold with Washington state residents.

It’s not clear yet how successful these state-run public option plans will be, but it is possible that a public option may prove more popular than single-payer. For starters, while single-payer health care is popular among Democrats, the public option still polls much better among Republicans and independents. According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll from March 2021, the public option was roughly as popular as Medicare for All among Democrats — about 80 percent said they supported each. But support for the public option was much higher than support for Medicare for All among both Republicans and independents. Just 28 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents supported Medicare for All versus 56 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents who supported a public option.

Moreover, a public option may align more naturally with Americans’ existing views on the role of government in health care. Polls have long found that Americans still want a choice in their health care, even though they believe that providing health insurance to the uninsured is the government’s responsibility.

Ultimately, any health care reforms would be easier to implement on a federal level than a patchwork, state-by-state approach. But Washington, Colorado and Nevada remain important tests of state governments’ ability to implement a public option in lieu of action by the federal government. It’s not single-payer, but it’s still some of the most consequential health care reforms in decades — and a potential sign of where the debates over health care are heading.

The old cliche about states being “laboratories of democracy” has limited application when it comes to providing decent health care for all citizens. But the public option at the state level, which is based on giving consumers a choice between public and private insurance coverage, may have a brighter future — particularly if the experiments with it in CO, NV and WA have a good track record in a couple of years. If that happens, Democrats can lead the way forward.

Teixeira: What the (Economic) Left Gets Right

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

The Economic Left and Politics

They get some important things right! If only they’d stick to those, we could actually get somewhere. John Halpin explains at The Liberal Patriot.

“If we are to build a new politics for America based on principles of liberal nationalism, it’s important to examine and incorporate good ideas from around the ideological spectrum that are helpful to the causes of individual freedom and national economic strength in all parts of the country.

Last week’s column examined some of the best concepts from conservatives, including notions of subsidiarity and localism, common sense and tradition, and concerns about unintended consequences in policy making. Today’s column will look at some of the best ideas emanating from the economic left—ideas that serve as good companions to those conservative ideas about markets and government by offering important corrections to private sector activities.

While conservatives remind us of the problems of big government and the benefits of local actions, the economic left reminds us about the problems of big business and the benefits of collective goods and universal social insurance protections.”

Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot!

Galston: Putin’s Invasion Uniting Americans

At brookings.edu, William A. Galson makes the case that “The invasion of Ukraine unites a divided America,” and writes:

By the standards of today’s polarized politics, the unity members of Congress displayed on Ukraine at President Biden’s State of the Union address was extraordinary. The hall was dotted with the blue and gold colors of the Ukrainian flag, and the introduction of Ukraine’s ambassador evoked a prolonged and passionate ovation….To an extent rarely seen these days, the American people are united across lines of partisanship, ideology, race, and ethnicity—indeed, across every demographic marker—on the nature of the threat, who is responsible for the war, and how to respond to it.

Galston shares some polling data:

Polling conducted right before Biden’s speech showed that the people are paying attention, with 65% saying they’ve heard a lot about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. About 8 in 10 Democrats and Republicans sympathize more with Ukraine than Russia, and three quarters say they care who wins the war. Huge majorities of both Democrats and Republicans believe that Russia wants to reestablish the border of the Soviet Union and that Ukraine wishes to remain independent.

These attitudes represent more than moral sympathy for Ukraine’s heroism in the face of Russian aggression. Large majorities of both parties believe that what happens in both Russia and Ukraine affects the United States “a lot.” 49% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans believe that Russia is “an immediate and serious threat” to the United States, and majorities of both political parties think that the chance of a new Cold War is higher than it was five years ago. 46% of Democrats and Republicans fear that war between the United States and Russia is very or somewhat likely.

There is also a strong bipartisan consensus on how the United States should respond to the Russian invasion. Supermajorities of both parties favor imposing economic sanctions on Russia and Putin and sending financial aid and weapons to Ukraine. 54% of both Democrats and Republicans favor sending troops to reinforce our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, but there is bipartisan opposition to sending US forces to fight the Russians in Ukraine.

Galston adds, “Americans are in no mood to end the war by rewarding Russian aggression. Across party lines, they oppose promising Russia that Ukraine will never join NATO, they oppose allowing Russia more influence in former Soviet countries, and they oppose pulling back NATO troop deployments in Eastern Europe.”

However, Galston wites, ” These opinions are not set in stone, especially in an election year. For example, Republicans’ support for sanctions falls—more than Democrats’ support does—if sanctions lead to an increase in fuel prices. Still, the degree of agreement on the fundamentals of the invasion is remarkable and seems likely to persist.”

It’s good news indeed that the American people are uniting in opposition to Putin’s invasipon of Ukraine.   The question now is whether Putin’s invasion will united, or further divide, Republican elected officials.

Teixeira: Time to Declare Victory and Open This Country Up!

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

Molly Murphy and Brian Stryker at Impact Research (Biden’s polling firm) have some excellent advice for Democrats. This is no longer an option but a necessity if Democrats are not to fall even farther behind the public mood. They need to see restoring a sense of normality as their number one task.

“After two years that necessitated lockdowns, travel bans, school closures, mask mandates, and nearly a million deaths, nearly every American finally has the tools to protect themselves from this virus. It’s time for Democrats to take credit for ending the COVID crisis phase of the COVID war, point to important victories like vaccine distribution and providing economic stability to Americans, and fully enter the rebuilding phase that comes after any war.

Declare the crisis phase of COVID over and push for feeling and acting more normal. Thanks to Democrats, we are nowhere near where we were two years, or even one year ago. Democrats have a tremendous opportunity to claim an incredible, historic success – they vaccinated hundreds of millions of people, prevented the economy from going into freefall, kept small businesses from going under, and got people back to work safely. Because of President Biden and Democrats, we CAN safely return to life feeling much more normal – and they should claim that proudly.

Recognize that people are “worn out” and feeling real harm from the years-long restrictions and take their side. Most Americans have personally moved out of crisis mode. Twice as many voters are now more concerned about COVID’s effect on the economy (49%) than about someone in their family or someone they know becoming infected with the coronavirus (24%). Two-thirds of parents and 80% of teachers say the pandemic caused learning loss, and voters are overwhelmingly more worried about learning loss than kids getting COVID. Six in ten Americans describe themselves as “worn out” by the pandemic. The more we talk about the threat of COVID and onerously restrict people’s lives because of it, the more we turn them against us and show them we’re out of touch with their daily realities.”

Abramowitz: ‘National Tides’ More Important Than Gerrymandering in Shaping Partisan Polarization

Alan I. Abramowitz examines redistricting and competition in congressional elections at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and argues that “The ability of House incumbents to attract votes across party lines and thereby insulate themselves from competition is now much more limited than it was in the 1970s and 1980s.” Abramowitz, author of “The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump,” argues further:

The declining personal advantage of incumbency has had a dramatic impact on competition in House elections, especially in districts in which the division of the presidential vote is close to the national average….partisan turnover has fallen slightly in the least competitive districts and remained fairly stable in moderately competitive districts. However, partisan turnover has increased sharply in the most competitive districts — those where the division of the presidential vote is closest to the national average. During the 1980s, the rate of turnover in these districts averaged only 5%. During the most recent decade, however, the rate of turnover in these districts averaged close to 18%.

As Abramowitz concludes,

Based on presidential voting patterns, a much larger proportion of U.S. House districts strongly favor one party, and a much smaller proportion are closely divided than 50 years ago. However, gerrymandering is not the major reason for this trend. Partisan polarization has increased dramatically in U.S. states and counties, whose boundaries have not changed. Moreover, despite the growing partisan divide evident in presidential voting, the competitiveness of House elections has changed very little over the past 5 decades because the personal advantage of incumbency has declined sharply during this period.

The declining ability of incumbents to attract support across party lines means that incumbents in marginal districts — those in which the presidential vote is close to the national average — are now much more vulnerable than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Incumbents in moderately competitive districts remain somewhat vulnerable as well. Whether that vulnerability turns into actual party turnover depends mainly on the strength of national tides. Large-scale party turnover of House seats tends to occur when there is a strong tide favoring one party. Even if redistricting results in a decline in the number of closely divided districts based on presidential voting, a strong national tide favoring Republicans in 2022 could still result in a large number of seats flipping from Democratic to Republican control. The number of seats switching parties in 2022 and succeeding elections will depend more on the strength of national tides than the number of marginal districts.

While gerrymandering is still a force in state politics across the U.S. and Democrats have to keep at it as long as Republicans do it, Democrats would be wise not to expect too much gain or loss because of redistricting, and to allocate resources according to political attitude trends in each district.