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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Swing-State, Working-Class Blues

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

“I’ve got those mean old swing-state, working-class blues!” I wouldn’t exactly recommend this as the Democrats’ campaign theme song, but it would encapsulate a lot of what appears to be happening to them these days.

A run of national polls have had Biden losing to Trump but, even worse, so have a number of swing-state polls. The latest are of Michigan and Georgia by CNN. In the former, Biden is behind by 10 points; in the latter, he is trailing by 5 points. Peering into the crosstabs, it is clear that Biden’s woes in these states have a lot to do with declining support among working-class voters. Let’s review some of the relevant data, starting with Michigan.

Michigan. In CNN’s Michigan poll, Trump is ahead by 21 points among working-class (noncollege) voters, while Biden is ahead by 10 points among college-educated voters. But Michigan is an overwhelmingly working-class state—according to States of Change projections, Michigan should be around 71 percent working-class eligible voters in 2024—so this a very unfavorable pattern for the Democrats.

Compared to Biden’s successful effort in 2020, the fall off in working-class support suggested here is precipitous. According to States of Change data, Biden lost these voters by a mere 2 points in 2020, so the current deficit of 21 points represents a massive 19-point swing against him. In contrast, the college-educated swing against him in the CNN poll looks quite small: a 12-point advantage among these voters in 2020, compared to a 10-point advantage now.

Other findings from the poll underscore the hole Biden is in among the state’s working-class voters. On whether Biden’s policies have improved or worsened economic conditions in the country, 60 percent of Michigan working-class voters think his policies have worsened conditions, three times more than the 20 percent who believe his policies have improved them.

The poll asked voters about several characteristics and whether Biden and Trump had exactly the characteristics they would like to see in a president, close enough or not what you want in a president. On Biden, 61 percent of Michigan working-class voters say his policy positions on major issues are not what they would like to see in a president. Worse, 65 percent of these voters believe Biden’s ability to understand the problems of people like them is not what they want in a president. And worse yet, 72 percent say Biden’s “sharpness and stamina” isn’t what they’d like to see in a president. In contrast, strong majorities of Michigan’s working-class voters see Trump’s major policy positions, his ability to understand the problems of people like them, and his sharpness and stamina as exactly what they’d like to see in a president, or close enough.

Biden is wont to wave away his troubles by saying: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” When it comes to working-class voters in Michigan, that is not a comparison at present that does much to mitigate his problems.

Georgia. In CNN’s Georgia poll, Trump is ahead by 14 points among working-class voters, while Biden is ahead by 7 points among college-educated voters. Georgia too is an overwhelmingly working-class state, likely around 67 percent working-class eligible voters in the next election, putting the Democrats in a very poor position.

In 2020, Biden lost Georgia working-class voters by just 6 points, so his current 14-point deficit is an 8-point swing against him. But his current 7-point lead among the college-educated is only 3 points less than his lead among these voters in 2020. As in Michigan, working-class defections are driving the move away from Biden to Trump.

It’s worth noting that, while CNN does not supply breaks for nonwhite working class voters, inspections of the internals of these polls indicates that in both states the swing away from Biden among nonwhite working-class voters is likely greater than the overall working-class swing.

The Georgia CNN poll has the same questions as the Michigan poll so it is possible to look at the same Biden evaluations. Georgia working-class voters are far more likely to think Biden’s policies have worsened economic conditions (58 percent) than improved them (22 percent). As for desired characteristics in a president, strong majorities of Georgia working-class voters see Biden as nothaving what they would like to see in a president on major policy positions, his ability to understand people like them and, especially, having the sharpness and stamina to do the job. With Trump, it’s exactly the reverse: on all three of these characteristics, strong majorities of Georgia’s working class see him as having exactly what they want in a president or close enough.

National. CNN also recently released an extensive national poll that sheds more light on Biden’s general working-class woes. Some key findings:

  1. Biden’s working-class approval rating on handling the economy is just 26 percent. Among the college-educated, in contrast, it’s a more respectable 43 percent.
  2. His approval rating on helping the middle class is a mere 28 percent among working-class voters. On handling crime, his rating, at 31 percent among these voters, is scarcely better.
  3. On which party is closer to voters’ views on issues, working-class voters favor Republicans over Democrats by 16 points on the economy. Intriguingly, the parties are essentially tied among Hispanics on this issue.
  4. On immigration, working-class voters prefer the GOP by 22 points. Even more intriguingly, Hispanics favor Republicans over Democrats by 6 points on the issue.
  5. Working-class voters also favor Republicans by 18 points on crime and policing, 12 points on America’s role in the world, 6 points on helping the middle class (!), and 4 points on education. The strongest area for the Democrats among these voters is abortion and even here they only have a single digit (8-point) lead, far less than their lead among the college-educated.
  6. Almost half (47 percent) of working-class voters are very worried that the cost of living will be too high for them to continue living in their current community. Another 32 percent are somewhat worried for a total of 79 percent.

Biden’s path to victory in 2024 of course goes through the key swing states everybody talks about. But people should realize that the path to victory in those swing states goes through the working-class voters in those states, voters among whom he has been losing critical support. He and his campaign will either fix this problem or they will lose. And then they—and the country—will really have those swing-state, working-class blues.

Dems Get Ready to Deploy ‘Secret Weapon’

The following article by Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is cross-posted from  Democracy Docket:

Polls for an election a year away drive chatter in some Washington, D.C. circles, but if you get outside of Washington and away from the media’s obsession with Donald Trump and the horse race for the White House, you’ll find Democrats are actually in a position of strength across the country.

At the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), we’re seeing encouraging signs after two consecutive years of Democrats’ sweeping wins in November elections, and an impressive trend of overperformance in special elections throughout 2023.

Just this month, the DLCC won majorities in both legislative chambers in Virginia, protecting reproductive rights for millions and ensuring voting rights and our democracy will continue to function — giving Democrats full legislative control in a key political battleground. After Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) funneledmillions of dollars into these races and cast this election as a referendum on the GOP and its proposed abortion ban, voters showed that MAGA extremism is unwelcome in Virginia, echoing the results we’ve seen in special elections across the country all year long.

Democrats also protected a key governing trifecta in New Jersey, not just preserving the majority in both chambers, but also gaining at least six seats. The millions that Republicans spent to break our majorities were no match for voters who soundly rejected MAGA extremism and enthusiastically backed Democratic leadership.

And in Pennsylvania, the DLCC invested an historic six-figures into the election for Democrat Daniel McCaffery, who secured a critical state Supreme Court seat. This seat is crucial to ensure that Pennsylvania certifies the results of the2024 presidential election, regardless of the outcome. Earlier in the year, we won five special elections in the state, defending our one-seat majority in the state House every time.

Lastly, Democrats scored an important victory in Ohio, where voters approved a ballot measure to protect abortion access. This landmark vote was a strong rebuke of Republicans’ extreme priorities and reinforces what the DLCC has long known: protecting fundamental freedoms is a winning issue.

Midterms are historically tough for the party in power, but in 2022 we made history — securing the best state legislative results for the president’s party in power since before 1934, protecting every state legislative majority and flipping four chambers from red to blue. In 2023, we over-performed in special elections by an average of seven points.

These victories represent a promising trend. When we focus on the data points that matter — actual election results, instead of polling — Democrats are in a strong position in 2024. At the ballot level closest to the people, voters are recognizing and choosing Democrats’ vision for the future over the increasingly extreme politics of the Republican Party.

For the last two decades, Republicans have been laser-focused and unfortunately wildly successful in seizing power in state legislatures. Following elections in 2010 and 2014, they built red majorities across the country and locked themselves into power with redistricting.

The consequences of this takeover still play an oversized role in driving the direction of this country.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, it wasn’t just the conservative justices who were responsible — it was the Republican-controlled legislatures across the country who put the Court’s opinion into action, writing and passing the state laws that stripped rights away from millions of Americans.

State legislatures enact the policies that have the most direct impact on people’s day-to-day lives. While the districts we work in are small, the implications of a single seat can be huge. Take the Michigan Senate and Minnesota Senate, two chambers where we won single-seat majorities in 2022: Soon after, the new Democratic majorities swiftly protected abortion, expandedvoting rights, passed legislation to benefit workers and took action to protect our kids from gun violence and hunger. When Democrats win power in the states, we deliver.

It’s clear what Democrats need to do for the 2023-24 cycle. We’ve made significant progress over the last decade, putting Democrats back in control of 41 chambers nationwide — many of them in states we would expect to be solidly blue on a presidential map. We now have momentum to push into battleground states, and our target map outlines our strategy to make gains and solidify power in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These fights will be our toughest yet, but we’re laser-focused.

Our biggest challenge isn’t the president’s approval ratings — it’s the lack of attention and resources that Democrats at our level of the ballot need to be competitive. Democrats absolutely need to win the White House in 2024 and win majorities in Congress. But our party cannot be fully successful if we do not also make state legislatures a core part of our collective strategy.

In fact, voting laws passed by state legislatures can impact who can vote and what ballots are counted in 2024. Right now, the ballot level furthest from Washington and closest to the voters is where we’ve had a winning strategy and where we have the best opportunities to change the direction of the country with smart investments. 2024 can be the year of the states if we stay focused and seize the opportunity. We can’t afford to neglect the states — fundamental freedoms and our entire democracy are hanging in the balance.

Dems Building ‘Track and Corner’ Strategy for 2024

In “Democrats plan to track and corner Republican 2024 candidates on Trump,” Jarrett Renshaw reports at Reuters:

When Republican U.S. Representative Don Bacon was asked if he supports Donald Trump’s bid for the White House next year at Nebraska town hall last month, he batted away the question, saying it was too early to say, given the former president hadn’t yet secured the nomination.

Despite the non-answer, a Democratic activist with a video camera filmed the exchange, and it was quickly blasted it online with the headline Bacon “refuses to tell Nebraskans if he supports Trump.”

Crenshaw notes further,

Democrats are monitoring local radio interviews, scouring news stories and hiring teams of political trackers armed with cameras to blanket Republican events, to capture the moment a candidate is asked a Trump loyalty question.

North Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania Democrats are currently hiring “trackers” to follow, record and post footage of Republicans at local events, according to job websites.

For $4,000 a month, a tracker will be responsible for “comprehensively tracking opponents’ schedules” and providing “same day footage” to “drive the campaign narrative,” one such job posting says.

Tracking, essentially following an opponent with the hopes they slip up or do something that can be used to influence voters, has become a ubiquitous practice in U.S. political campaigns in recent years. It will only grow in 2024, some Democrats say.

American Bridge 21st Century, the largest research, tracking, and rapid response operation in the Democratic Party, spent $84 million tracking Republican candidates and using the footage to run ads against them in their home states in 2020.

In 2024, the operation is “going to be bigger than it’s ever been,” President Pat Dennis told Reuters.

Renshaw adds, “Republicans in suburban districts are the most squeezed by Trump politics, making them the best areas to film, Dennis said….”The amount of damage Trump has done to the Republican Party in the suburbs is extraordinary. So that’s sort of the pain point for them,” Dennis said.”

Good to know that state and local Democratic parties are paying attention with determination to hold GOP candidates accountable. Now, if local media will do its job, Dems will have a fighting chance to elect a working majority that can get America moving forward in the post-Trump era.

Teixeira: The Democratic Coalition Is Falling Apart

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Let’s face it: the Democratic coalition is in poor shape. It’s springing leaks everywhere—young voters, Hispanic voters, black voters, women voters, working-class voters, moderate and independent voters. Of course, some Democrats dismiss the accumulating evidence as irrelevant because it’s too early, too biased, or not consistent with recent positive election results. It reminds me of the widely shared meme of the anthropomorphic dog calmly sipping his coffee in a burning room saying: “This is fine.”

And for sure, it is early. But these are very disturbing data that indicate the scale of the Democrats’ challenge in 2024. Two recent data releases document this ongoing decay of the Democratic coalition. First, looking at the national picture, Adam Carlson at the excellent Split Ticket data analytics site, has produced a compilation of cross-tabular data that allows us to compare average current Democratic performance with Democratic performance from 2020 to estimate shifts in preference since that election by key group. The second data source is a major survey of battleground states and districts by Democracy Corps/PSG/Greenberg Research (DCorps) that provides some rich demographic breakdowns of vote preference and opinion where the 2024 election will almost certainly be decided.

The Democratic “base” as a whole. This group isn’t in the Split Ticket data, but is displayed in the DCorps battleground data. In their definition the Democratic base is an amalgamation of Democratic-friendly demographic groups: “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women”. Overall, across this constellation of groups, Biden trails Trump in the presidential battleground by 4 points—no better for Biden than among all voters in the battleground.

These base voters also give Trump a higher approval rating than Biden; three-quarters think the country is off on the wrong track. Their most pressing issue by far for the country is inflation and the cost of living. Crime, homelessness and violence is second while, interestingly, abortion only ranks eighth.

Young voters. The Split Ticket data show Biden carrying 18-29 year olds (primarily Gen Z) by 16 points, a 7-point pro-Trump shift relative to 2020. (Note: where Catalist data are available, I use their data alone, rather than averaged with AP/Votecast and Pew validated voter data as Split Ticket does.) Among 30-44 year olds (primarily Millennials), Biden is ahead by only 8 points, a 6-point pro-Trump shift compared to 2020.

The DCorps battleground data suggest the situation may be particularly dire with white Gen Z and Millennial voters. Trump is 28 points ahead of Biden among white Gen Z voters in the presidential battleground and 25 points ahead among white Millennials. Their most pressing issue by a wide margin is inflation and cost of living. Among white Gen Z voters, Biden’s approval rating is 27 percent compared to 59 percent (!) for Trump; among white Millennials, Biden’s rating is 33 percent while Trump’s is 60 percent.

Hispanic voters. The measured pro-Trump shift here is particularly startling. Biden’s average lead among Hispanics is a mere 5 points, an 18-point decline from his lead in 2020. And in the DCorps presidential battleground data, Biden is actually behind among these voters by 3 points. Battleground Hispanics’ key issue is inflation and the cost of living, followed by crime. They give Trump and Biden exactly equal approval ratings.

Black voters. In the Split Ticket data, Biden is averaging a 52-point lead among black voters. That may sound good but it actually represents a precipitous 29-point drop from Biden’s 81-point lead in 2020. It seems hard to believe that Biden will ultimately drop that much support from black voters but even half that drop would be disastrous for him.

The DCorps presidential battleground data confirm this relatively weak black support for Biden. Interestingly, while inflation and the cost of living is these voters’ top issue, as it is for most other groups, crime is actually very close behind, much closer than among other groups. Consistent with this, black battleground voters are most likely to pick “crime and homelessness being out of control in cities and the violence killing small businesses and the police” as something that would upset them the most if Biden was re-elected.

Women voters. The Split Ticket data show Biden’s average lead among women voters at 6 points, down 7 points from his 2020 showing. This shift is actually slightly larger than the pro-Trump shift among men at this point.

The DCorps presidential battleground data indicate particular problems among white unmarried women (25-point Trump lead) and white working-class (noncollege) women under 50 (47-point Trump lead). These two groups of women are by far the most worried about inflation and the cost of living. Both groups of women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden. The under 50 white working class women, in fact, give Biden an abysmal 16 percent approval rating compared to 57 percent for Trump.

Working-class voters. The Split Ticket data show Trump averaging solid leads among both high school or less (15 points) and some college (9 points) voters. These leads represent, respectively, a 5-point and a 7.5-point shift toward Trump relative to 2020.

In the DCorps data, Trump has an amazing 21-point lead among the working class as a whole in the battleground states and districts. And that’s 63 percent of the voters in these areas—the areas that, as noted, will decide the outcome in 2024.

Independent and moderate voters. The Split Ticket data show Trump leading Biden by 6 points among independents, a 15-point turnaround from Biden’s 9-point lead in 2020. Biden currently leads by 14 points among moderate voters, which sounds OK, but is actually a 12-point decline from his lead in 2020. And in the DCorps presidential battleground, Trump leads independents by a healthy 18 points.

It no doubt seems odd to Democrats that voters in the center—independents and moderates—aren’t flocking to their banners because surely they all know and believe that chaos agent Trump and his anti-democratic Republican Party represent everything that is immoderate and super-partisan in American politics.

But here’s the problem: these voters don’t necessarily see Trump and the Republicans as clearly being the worst in these areas. In the DCorps poll, battleground voters prefer Trump and the Republicans over Biden and the Democrats on “opposing extremism” (by 3 points), “getting beyond the chaos (by 6 points), “standing up to elites” (by 8 points), “protecting the U.S. Constitution” (by 8 points), and “putting country over party” (by 8 points). These voters see the parties as tied on “democracy being secure”and give Biden and the Democrats negligible leads of 2 points on “presidents not being able to act as autocrats”, and one point on “protecting democracy”. So while partisan Democrats may think these issues are not even close when comparing Biden and the Democrats to Trump and his “semi-fascist” Republican Party, there are clearly huge numbers of less partisan voters who disagree.

Similarly, in a recent Morning Consult poll, voters deemed the Democratic Party more ideologically extreme than the Republicans by 9 points. And in a poll conducted by The Liberal Patriot and YouGov, more voters thought the Democrats had moved too far left on cultural and social issues (61 percent) than thought the Republicans had moved too far right on these issues (58 percent).

Something’s clearly not working here for the Democrats. Despite turning it up to 11 on the threat posed by Trump to democracy throughout Biden’s presidency, and now perhaps to 12 as the probability of a Biden-Trump rematch looms ever larger, actually-existing voters don’t seem to be stampeding in their direction. The big lead that Democrats feel should be naturally theirs is not appearing.

To me, this raises the question: where is the popular front against Trumpism? If he is indeed as bad as most Democrats seem to believe—i.e., we’re one step away from fascism, it’s Weimar Germany 1932 all over again—shouldn’t Democrats be casting the net as wide as possible, compromising on anything and everything to make their party maximally accessible to persuadable voters? After all, we’ve got to stop fascism here!

But that’s not what’s happening. Despite their dire assessment of the threat posed by Trump, moves to compromise on contentious issues that persuadable voters care about are few and far between. Look what’s happening with the immigration issue that has come to the fore in the negotiations over aid to the Ukraine and Israel. Instead of eagerly embracing a deal to move the aid forward that would include fairly modest reforms to the asylum system and other changes to tighten border security, Democrats are evincing the greatest reluctance to make such a deal. And this is despite the reality that voters, including most persuadable voters, view the Democrats as absolutely abysmal on the issue of border security.

It’s hard to understand. And the great irony here is that progressive Democrats, who are precisely the ones who are most hysterical about the threat posed by Trump and Trumpism, are also the ones most adamantly opposed to making any compromise on border security as part of this deal. Or really anything else for that matter.

This is not a recipe for success. I suppose that’s because they don’t really want a popular front against Trumpism but rather a popular front for all the stuff they feel comfortable supporting. But that’s not how a popular front works and it’s certainly not how Democrats are going to rebuild and expand their coalition for 2024. Instead, such a sectarian approach simply enhances the very real possibility that Donald Trump will (gulp) win next November.

Edsall: Biden’s Fraying Coalition in Danger

Some excerpts from Thomas B. Edsall’s  “‘This Is Grim,’ One Democratic Pollster Says” at The New York Times:

The predictive power of horse-race polling a year from the presidential election is weak at best. The Biden campaign can take some comfort in that. But what recent surveys do reveal is that the coalition that put Joe Biden in the White House in the first place is nowhere near as strong as it was four years ago.

These danger signs include fraying support among core constituencies, including young voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters, and the decline, if not the erasure, of traditional Democratic advantages in representing the interests of the middle class and speaking for the average voter.

Any of these on their own might not be cause for alarm, but taken together, they present a dangerous situation for Biden.

Edsall notes further, “From Nov. 5 through Nov. 11, Democracy Corps, a Democratic advisory group founded by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, surveyed 2,500 voters in presidential and Senate battleground states as well as competitive House districts….In an email, Greenberg summarized the results: “This is grim.” The study, he said, found that collectively, voters in the Democratic base of “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden.”

Edsall goes on to roll out the discouraging specifics, including:

On 32 subjects ranging from abortion to China, the Democracy Corps survey asked voters to choose which would be better: “Biden and the Democrats” or “Trump and the Republicans.”

Biden and the Democrats led on six: women’s rights (ahead by 17 percentage points), climate change (15 points), addressing racial inequality (10 points), health care (three points), the president will not be an autocrat (two points) and protecting democracy (one point). There was a tie on making democracy more secure.

Donald Trump and the Republicans held leads on the remaining subjects, including being for working people (a seven-point advantage), standing up to elites (eight points), being able to get things done for the American people (12 points), feeling safe (12 points) and keeping wages and salaries up with the cost of living (17 points).

In the case of issues that traditionally favor Republicans, Trump and his allies held commanding leads: patriotism (11 points), crime (17 points), immigration (20 points) and border security (22 points).

As for the causes, Edsall writes, “There is some evidence in both the Democracy Corps survey and in other polls that concerns specific to Biden — including his age and the surge in prices during his presidency — are driving the perception of Democratic weakness rather than discontent with the party itself…..The survey found, for example, that Democratic candidates in House battleground districts are running even with their Republican opponents among all voters and two points ahead among voters who say they are likely to cast ballots on Election Day.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Biden’s sagging popularity is weakening Democratic 2024 prospects. As Edsall notes,

Along similar lines, a November 2023 NBC News poll found Trump leading Biden by two points, 46 to 44, but when voters were asked to choose between Trump and an unnamed Democratic candidate, the generic Democrat won 46 to 40.

In a reflection of both Biden’s and Trump’s high unfavorability ratings, NBC reported that when voters were asked to choose between Biden and an unnamed generic Republican, the Republican candidate led Biden 48 to 37.

What makes these numbers and conclusions harder to ignore than other recent polls indicating trouble for Democrats, is the name Stan Greenberg associated with the Democracy Corps poll and related analyses. While James Carville is familiar to many political junkies because of his frequent television appearances, his political partner Stan Greenberg is the Democrats’ platinum standard pollster, poll and election data analyst. Indeed, they have advised successful social democratic candidates all over the world. Greenberg and Carville steered President Bill Clinton’s two victorious election campaigns, and if Hillary Clinton heeded their advice to focus more on winning the support of  working-classs voters in key states, the nation might have been spared the entire Trump disaster, which now threatens the future of America’s democracy.

It is true that nobody knows what is going to happen in the months ahead, and yes, Biden could rally, if the economic picture improves substantially, or if Trump’s legal problems drag him down. In any case, President Biden, or whoever runs against Trump or another GOP nominee, would do well to pay close attention to the insights of Stan Greenberg and James Carville.

To round out your take on Democratic 2024 prospects, do read the rest of Edsall’s column. It provides as thorough and carefully-considered a report as you are going to find.

Dems, Don’t Forget the GOP’s Other Big Failure – Health Care Policy

Eleanor Clift explains how “Democrats Can Win if They Make the 2024 Election About Healthcare: Ron DeSantis updated the GOP’s “repeal and replace” Obamacare mantra to “replace and supersede,” and Trump wants to “terminate” it. But voters like the Affordable Care Act” at The Daily Beast:

Of all the issues before voters, healthcare remains the holy grail for Democrats.

In the last three election cycles, it delivered Democratic victories based on deeply held beliefs about which party could be trusted to reform a system that had left millions without health care and millions more bankrupt with medical debt.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 (and more commonly known as Obamacare), is far from perfect, but it allowed people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance, it removed unrealistic caps on medical care, and it allowed young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy until the age of 26.

It was revolutionary, and more than a decade of Republican calls to “repeal and replace” proved futile. The GOP might have learned its lesson, but Donald Trump, who never tires of his old fixations, says on social media he would like to “terminate” Obamacare and “replace it with something much better.”

Clift adds that “it is music to Democrats whenever Republicans start mucking around in health care. Forty million Americans now have health insurance thanks to Obamacare, an ace card that Democrats hold going into the 2024 election where health care could once again play a decisive role in the outcome.” Also,

“It’s the most powerful kitchen table issue there is,” says Leslie Dach, executive chair of Protect Our Care, a health advocacy group, and senior advisor to the Congressional Integrity Project, a pro-Biden rapid response group. “Politically, it’s a loser for them (GOP) because it’s a totally non-partisan issue. The only place it’s partisan is in Washington, D.C. Everybody in America worries about getting sick, and how they’re going to pay for it, and they’re trying to make it an ideological issue.”

In addition, Clift writes, “It will be 14 years in March since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Most Republicans are ready to put the issue in the rearview mirror, recognizing the futility of repeal and replace, as well as the complexity of the healthcare market in a bitterly partisan political climate….Nikki Haley’s home state of South Carolina and DeSantis’ Florida are two of 10 remaining states that have blocked Medicaid expansion, withholding health care coverage from hundreds of thousands of people.”

Clift concludes, “Any time Trump or DeSantis want to vent about Obamacare, they sharpen the contrast between the party that delivered health care for millions of people and the party that would take it away under the false illusion that they’ve got a secret plan to make it better.”

Sure, Democrats should frame the Republicans’ cluelessness on abortion rights for maximum advantage. But don’t forget their failure to propose a single credible health care reform.

Dionne: Time to face Democracy’s Twin Threats

In “Democracy faces two threats. Trump is only one of them,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes:

Over the next year, the survival of democracy should be the central issue in American politics. To insist on this is to be a realist, not an alarmist. But making that case requires identifying two distinct threats.

The first is Donald Trump, who is already at the center of our national conversation. The second is the ongoing assault on voting rights, which rarely commands the airwaves.

Let’s start with the good news: It has become untenable to treat Trump as a normal presidential candidate, thanks to his own evermore radical rhetoric, starting with his pledges to use the Justice Department as a tool for revenge against political enemies. The result is a partial but welcome shift in journalistic coverage recognizing Trump’s journey into what the New York Times called “more fascist-sounding territory.” The Economist, no avatar of left-wing politics, received wide attention for declaring that Trump “poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024.”
However, Dionne writes, “We are paying far less attention to the long-term deterioration of the right to vote, the essential building block of a democratic republic. It’s easier to overlook because chipping away at access to the ballot has been a subtle, decade-long process. It began with the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, thus sharply circumscribing the Justice Department’s power to enforce the law.” Further,
This led to an explosion of state abuses, including discriminatory voter-identification laws, targeted purges of electoral rolls, gerrymanders that undercut minority representation and changes in early-voting rules that often advantaged some groups over others.
Because such moves fall short of the wholesale disenfranchisement of Black voters during the Jim Crow era — it ended with the Voting Rights Act’s passage in 1965 — defenders of today’s restrictions insist they are not discriminating against anyone. But making it harder for some people to vote — often in the name of preventing the falsely imagined “voter fraud” that is at the heart of Trump’s election denial — is no less an attack on democracy.

Also, “In his decision in Shelby, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. claimed that even without a strong Section 4, the Voting Rights Act bans discrimination under Section 2, which “is permanent, applies nationwide, and is not at issue in this case.” In addition,

Permanent? Not if the 2-1 decision last week from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit is allowed to stand….The court’s majority arrogantly tossed aside what Congress explicitly said it was doing when it passed the law, claiming miraculous powers to read the “text and structure” of the act as preventing private parties, including civil rights groups, from bringing cases under Section 2. As the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted, the ruling’s claim that only the Justice Department had this authority ignored “Congress’s intentions, Supreme Court precedent and decades of practice.”

This is no minor bit of judicial activism. Rick Hasen, a law professor at UCLA, wrote in the Election Law Blog that the ruling would eliminate the bulk of the cases aimed at protecting voting rights because “the vast majority of claims to enforce section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are brought by private plaintiffs, not the Department of Justice with limited resources.” Bye bye, Voting Rights Act. Indeed, there were immediate signs (in a key Louisiana case, for example) that the 8th Circuit ruling would be used to overturn earlier voting rights actions.

“Preventing Trump from overthrowing liberal democracy is certainly a necessary step,” Dionne argues, “but it’s not sufficient. Renewing the fight for a new Voting Rights Act and the access-enhancing reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act is essential. But it’s also time to address one of the major flaws of our Constitution: It does not contain an explicit, affirmative guarantee of every citizen’s right to vote. Enacting a constitutional amendment that would do so, Hasen argues, would bring our voting wars to an inclusive conclusion.
“Why do we let the state put barriers in front of people when they exercise their right to vote?” Hasen asked in an interview. The director of UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project, Hasen details his proposed amendment and the case for it in a forthcoming book, “A Real Right to Vote.” A carefully framed amendment, he argues, could simultaneously protect voter access and assure election integrity. He’d link automatic voter registration with a nationwide, universal, nondiscriminatory form of voter identification.

Dionne concludes, “Polarization makes amending the Constitution nearly impossible these days, one reason Hasen addresses fears on both the left and the right. But whatever chances Hasen’s amendment has, it calls on Americans to address the most important question facing our democracy: Are we truly committed to being a democracy? We’ll decide that at the ballot box next November, but we’ll have a lot more work to do even if we get the initial answer right.”

Brownstein: How Biden Might Recover

In “How Biden Might Recover” at The Atlantic,  Ronald Brownstein writes: “If the GOP renominates Trump, attitudes about the challenger might overshadow views about the incumbent to an unprecedented extent, the veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff believes. McInturff told me that in his firm’s polling over the years, most voters usually say that when a president seeks reelection, their view about the incumbent is what most influences their decision about whom to support.

Brownstein notes further, “But in a recent national survey McInturff’s firm conducted with a Democratic partner for NBC, nearly three-fifths of voters said that their most important consideration in a Trump-Biden rematch would be their views of the former president….“I have never seen a number like this NBC result between an incumbent and ‘challenger,’” McInturff told me in an email. “If 2024 is a Biden versus Trump campaign, we are in uncharted waters.”

In addition, “Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist, said the principal reason presidents now appear more capable of surviving discontent about their performance is the rise of negative partisanship. That’s the phrase he and other political scientists use to describe a political environment in which many voters are motivated primarily by their belief that the other party represents an unacceptable threat to their values and vision of America. “Emphasizing the negative results of electing your opponent has become a way of unifying your party,” Abramowitz told me.”

However, “Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection, reflected the changing thinking when he told me he does not believe that Biden needs to reach majority approval to win another term. “I don’t think it’s a requirement,” Messina said. “It might be if we are dealing with an open race with two nonpresidents. People forget that they are both incumbents. Neither one of them is going to get to 50 percent in approval. What you are trying to drive is the choice.”….

Another consideration Browstein points out, “Trump has already laid out a much more militantly conservative and overtly authoritarian agenda than he ran on in 2016 or 2020. His proposals include the mass deportation of and internment camps for undocumented immigrants, gutting the civil service, invoking the Insurrection Act to quash public protests, and openly deploying the Justice Department against his political enemies. If Trump is the GOP nominee, Democratic advertising will ensure that voters in the decisive swing states are much more aware of his agenda and often-venomous rhetoric than they are today. (The Biden campaign has started issuing near-daily press releases calling out Trump’s most extreme proposals.).”

However, “In a recent national poll by Marquette University Law School, nearly twice as many voters said they trusted Trump rather than Biden to handle both the economy and immigration. The Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg released a survey last week of the nine most competitive presidential states, in which even the Democratic “base of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden.” Among all voters in those crucial states, the share that said they thought Trump did a good job as president was nearly 10 percentage points higher than the group that gives Biden good grades now.

“The problem for Trump’s team,” Brownstein adds, “is that he constantly pushes the boundaries of what the public might accept. Holding his strong current level of support in polls among Hispanics, for instance, may become much more difficult for Trump after Democrats spend more advertising dollars highlighting his plans to establish internment camps for undocumented immigrants, his refusal to rule out reprising his policy of separating migrant children from their parents, and his threats to use military force inside Mexico. Trump’s coming trials on 91 separate criminal charges will test the public’s tolerance in other ways: Even a recent New York Times/Siena College poll showing Trump leading Biden in most of the key swing states found that the results could flip if the former president is convicted.”

Brownstein concludes, “rump presents opponents with an almost endless list of vulnerabilities. But Biden’s own vulnerabilities have lifted Trump to a stronger position in recent polls than he achieved at any point in the 2020 race. These polls aren’t prophecies of how voters will make their decisions next November if they are forced to choose again between Biden and Trump. But they are a measure of how much difficult work Biden has ahead to win either a referendum or a choice against the man he ousted four years ago.”

Halpin: Legacy Media and Political Polarization

The following article by John Halpin, president and executive editor of The Liberal Patriot. is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot: 

People often finger social media as the primary culprit in America’s increasingly bitter and divided politics. As the argument goes, corporate tech algorithms and consumer choices are forcing people into closed-looped information circuits full of misinformation, political self-righteousness, and acrimony toward others.

If you happen to spend any time on these social media platforms, you might agree with this assessment. However, the empirical question remains: Are the users of social media any more partisan or ideological than consumers of other types of media?

Looking at data from the recent TLP/YouGov polling of 3098 registered voters conducted in September 2023, the answer is not as simple as conventional wisdom dictates. It turns out, consumers of traditional media—mainly cable news, network television, radio, and national newspapers—exhibit far greater partisan imbalances than do consumers of the biggest social media platforms.

For context, the survey asked respondents, “In the past week, did you get any news from any of the following sources?” and allowed people to make multiple selections.

As the chart below shows, local television remains the most used media source for news information chosen by 41 percent of voters overall. News websites and apps come in second at 33 percent followed by a cluster of different sources including Fox News (28 percent), Facebook (28 percent), CNN (27 percent), and YouTube (26 percent). Notably, national print newspapers were selected by only 9 percent of voters—almost equal to those Americans getting news from the social media video platform, TikTok, at 10 percent. Seven percent of voters overall report not getting news from any of these sources.

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Looking at the crosstabs on media usage, the overlap in news consumption is interesting. For example, 54 percent of those who tune into CNN also get news from local television, and 40 percent get news from Facebook. Likewise, 53 percent of those who tune into Fox get news from local television, and 37 percent get news from Facebook. On the social media side, 52 percent of TikTok news consumers also turn to CNN for news, 54 percent watch YouTube, and 59 percent get news on Facebook.

To gauge the partisan leanings of different consumers, I examined the breakdown of media consumers on President Biden’s job approval, which stood at 45 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove among all voters in September. (Job approval and disapproval seems like a more representative measure of political beliefs than the national horserace at this stage, but the patterns are broadly matched in terms of Biden or Trump support.)

As the table below highlights, legacy media users emerge as the most skewed American consumers of media in terms of their approval or disapproval of President Biden—particularly cable news viewers.

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For example, among those who get news from CNN and MSNBC, Biden’s job approval is an impressive 72 and 78 percent, respectively—more than 25 points higher than his approval ratings nationally. Conversely, only one quarter or less of those who get their news from Fox, One America News Network, and Newsmax approve of the job Biden is going as president, around 20 points lower than the national average. Consumers of national newspapers and national network news also exhibit much higher approval of President Biden than voters nationally, and when compared to consumers of local newspapers or local television. On the flip side, radio news consumers exhibit higher than average disapproval of Biden.

In contrast, users of an array of social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and other social media (including LinkedIn and Instagram) appear more evenly split in their evaluations of the president. Among voters who get news from either Facebook or YouTube, an equal 49 percent approve and disapprove of Biden. And although both Twitter and TikTok users overall emerge slightly more pro-Biden than the national average, their approval or disapproval is much less pronounced than that among cable news viewers.

This is just one poll, of course. But these results cut against the grain of most commentary on America’s political divides.

If analysts are looking for the information roots of America’s most intense political polarization, they might want to examine the consumer bases and news content of legacy media sources as much as they scrutinize social media platforms.

The viewers of different cable news channels, and readers of national newspapers or listeners of radio, constitute vastly different (and more one-sided) partisan worlds than most people on social media platforms with a cacophony of voices and partisan inclinations.

Social media often gets dinged for partisan self-selection and ideological reinforcement, which certainly goes on to some extent, but these data show that the sharpest partisans splits are more prominently found among consumers of traditional cable, print, network news, and radio sources.

Teixeira: The Eerie Complacency of the Democrats

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

The Democrats had a good election on November 7. While there were not a lot of big races this year, Democrats did hold the governorship in the deep red state of Kentucky, flipped the House of Delegates in Virginia, and easily passed a referendum in Ohio enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution. Moreover, this year Democrats have been cleaning up in special elections, consistently doing better than expected given the partisan lean of the areas contested. In the more consequential 2022 elections, Democrats defied expectations keeping down their losses in the House, gaining a seat in the Senate, netting two governorships and making progress in state legislatures. And of course, Democrats did win the biggest election of them all, the presidency, the last time it was held in 2020.

This has led to a certain amount of self-congratulatory behavior among Democratic partisans. The basic take is that in the wake of the Dobbs decisions Democrats have the political equivalent of a nuclear weapon on their side, abortion rights. That adds to a deep arsenal of potential attacks based around voter distaste for Trump/MAGA/election denial/threats to democracy and for a shambolic Republican Party that appears incapable of governing. With these weapons at Democrats’ disposal, they feel they have a decisive advantage moving into the 2024 election. It is simply a matter of pressing that advantage and hitting the Republicans as hard as they can.

In short, as the catechism goes, they’ve got the formula down for defeating the GOP. There is no need to tinker with the formula; stout hearts and merciless execution will win the day. The future for the Democrats and their brand is bright.

And yet…there are so many signs of underlying weakness that undercut this happy story. It was not so long ago after all that Bad Orange Man actually won the presidency in 2016. Have the Democrats really discovered the secret to withstanding further populist surges from the right? Here are three reasons to doubt that and question the Democrats’ current stand-pat complacency.

1. Despite recent results, the actual governing situation is a stalemate. Democrats had their trifecta (presidency, House, Senate) for exactly one term, losing the House in 2022. The last time they had a trifecta was with Obama’s election in 2008. That too vanished after one term, with the 2010 wipeout in the House. But an important difference between then and now is that Obama briefly had a cloture-proof majority in the Senate that included Senators from many states where Democrats have become uncompetitive: Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Despite some gains elsewhere, so many states are now out of competition for the Democrats that their path to 60 seats appears completely closed off. In addition, next election the Senate map is so unfavorable that Democrats are very likely to lose their current razor-thin majority. They are already essentially down one seat, with the retirement of West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

Elsewhere, notwithstanding good Democratic election results since 2020, Republicans still have more governors, control more state legislatures, and have more state government trifectas (governor, state house, state senate) than the Democrats. Not exactly Democratic dominance.

This raises an important question: if the Trump-ified Republican Party is so awful, so beyond the pale, such a danger to democracy and all that is right and decent—why can’t the Democrats beat this mess of a party decisively? Why are they still playing at the 50-yard line of American politics against this version of the GOP with all its many vulnerabilities and the millstone of Donald Trump around its neck? The simplest explanation is that the Democrats themselves are so unattractive to so many voters in so many places that they cannot break the stalemate. This simple truth is the most difficult thing for Democrats to accept since it implies the need for change rather than more aggressive messaging.

2. The polls are bad—really bad. With the cheerful results from November 7, Democrats are reviving the hoary admonition “the only poll that counts is the one on election day”. True as far as it goes but there’s no gainsaying how poor these polls are for Democratic prospects. They tell us that voters, right now, are uninclined to re-elect Biden. He not only is losing to Trump on the national level but, critically, in the swing states that will determine the next presidential winner he is running behind in enough of them to lose the Electoral College.

  • In the New York Times/Siena poll, Trump is ahead in five states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania—of the six covered by the survey.
  • In the Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll, Trump is ahead in six states—Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—of the seven covered.
  • In the Stack Data Strategy study, which combines survey data with statistical analysis, Trump leads in four states—Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—carried by Biden in 2020 and trails in none of the states he carried in that election.

Not good! The Times/Siena poll releases detailed crosstabs that allow for an examination of just where Biden is falling short. One key area is Biden’s continuing weakness among nonwhite working-class (noncollege) voters. Confirming a pattern I have previously noted, Biden leads Trump by a mere 16 points among this demographic in the six swing states covered by the poll. This compares to his (national) lead over Trump of 48 points in 2020. And even that lead was a big drop-off from Obama’s 67-point advantage in 2012.