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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: How ‘Cancel Culture’ Threatens Dems

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

Could Cancel Culture Hurt the Democrats?

Sure it could. At the current moment, Trump is so detested that his ability to exploit excesses associated with this culture is limited. But greater harm is certainly possible in the future, both in this election season and beyond. Amy Walter has the following in one of her recent columns:

“it’s hard to be an effective messenger when just 41 percent of Americans approve the job you are doing as president and just over a third think you are doing a good job handling racial issues.

Even so, warns one GOP strategist I spoke with this week, there is real concern among suburban voters about where this so-called ‘cancel culture’ or what we called in the old-days, PCism, is headed.

This strategist, who has been deeply involved in both quantitative and qualitative work with suburban voters across the country, acknowledged that these voters are not interested in preserving Confederate statues or flags. They are sympathetic to Black Lives Matter and supportive of the protests against police violence.

But, this person points out, they are also wary of how far this reckoning will go. Over the last week or so, they’ve raised the question of “where does it end?” They cringe at reports of statues of Christopher Columbus being tossed into a lake and are upset to read of another public figure fired for a controversial Facebook post that they put up years ago.

However, the challenge for Trump in being able to exploit these concerns is that these voters “are mostly done with him” and think that “he makes everything worse.” As a messenger, this person said, Trump has “zero credibility” with these suburbanites.

In the era of Trump, Democrats have become more and more reliant on suburban voters. But, as one Democratic strategist wondered aloud the other day: are Democrats simply renting them until Trump is no longer in office? This GOP strategist argues that one way to lose them is to assume that they want to move as far on social, racial and cultural reckoning, as many within the Democratic Party and/or the left would like to go.

And, this worry of an ‘overcorrection’ of Trump-ism, isn’t happening only in suburban living rooms and kitchens. Earlier this week, more than 150 prominent artists and public thinkers signed onto a letter titled “A Letter On Justice and Open Debate,” that ran in Harper’s. This letter mirrored what the GOP strategist told me were “simmering” concerns from suburbanites: worries about public shaming and retribution for expressing opposing or non-PC views.”

So, be worried. There are a large number of voters who are currently on the Democratic train who will be tempted to get off in the future if Democrats do not clearly dissociate themselves from the movement’s excesses. Dislike of Trump can only go so far in keeping Democratic voters Democratic.

Biden’s Latino Outreach in High Gear

Marc Caputo reports that “Biden makes sharp pivot toward Latino vote” at Politico, including “hiring a rash of Hispanic operatives, spending $1 million in Spanish-language outreach and, this week, signing one of the nation’s top pollsters in the field, Latino Decisions.” The rationale for the Democrat’s likely nominee includes:

A raft of recent general election polls shows Biden with a solid lead nationwide and in many battleground states. He’s already leading among Hispanic voters. But if Biden can get the same level of support and turnout as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 — while continuing to do better than she did among black and white voters — he’s all but guaranteed to win the crucial battlegrounds of Florida and Arizona, which would effectively deny President Trump a second term.

Caputo adds that Trump has a problematic record on issues of intense concern among Latinos, including “immigration, Puerto Rico, healthcare, coronavirus response and foreign policy” and “Democrats learned from Florida’s last election that failing to aggressively reach out to Latino voters cost them the governor’s office and the retention of a U.S. Senate seat.”

Caputo quotes Latino Decisions co-founder and pollster Matt Barreto, who advised Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign: “In 2018, some of the statewide campaigns in Florida did not have robust Latino engagement…Puerto Rican turnout in Central Florida was not robust.” Further, Caputo writes,

Biden’s campaign plans to harness the “incredible anger” among Puerto Rican voters in Florida over Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Barreto says. And it sees an opening to increase support levels in border-state Arizona, where Latinos have “been deeply influenced by the immigrant rights movement, especially younger Latinos, and that is very bad news for Donald Trump. Already, 2018 demonstrated that heightened Latino turnout can flip the state, and with continued investment in Latino outreach, 2020 could follow the same path as 2018.”

The campaign, he said, is ready to “pivot in South Florida and have different messages on the diversity of the community there, whether you’re talking to the Cubans who were born in Cuba or born in the United States, South Americans … and engaging Latinos where they are and the issues that matters to them.”

Caputo notes that Biden has bulked up his outreach staff with media and GOTV pros, who have expertise in mobilizing Latino voters of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Central American heritage with nuanced messaging. Among the reasons thaat Biden’s expanded Latino outreach comes as a welcome, if overdue development, according to Caputo:

Trump has a cash advantage and he has been using it on TV — the president’s reelection campaign has spent nearly $1.2 million on Spanish-language TV ads in Arizona and Florida in the past three weeks, according to the Advertising Analytics tracking firm, which found that Biden’s campaign has spent less than $100,000 on TV in that time. Including Spanish-language radio spots and digital ads, the Biden campaign said it is on pace to spend $1 million in five weeks. An outside group, Nuestro PAC, is also giving Biden Spanish-language air-support.

While Arizona and Florida are seen as pivotal battleground states where the Latino vote can be decisive, Barreto notes that “North Carolina and Pennsylvania have large and growing Latino populations that could ultimately decide a very close election…Our research in these two states suggest over 70% of Latinos oppose Trump’s divisive rhetoric and see Biden as fighting for Latinos.”

Adrian Carrasquillo reports at Newsweek that A new poll by Voter Participation Center/Voto Latino of battleground states Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas “found that Latino voters continued to demonstrate lower enthusiasm for Biden’s candidacy, with a “somewhat low rate” of 59 percent of Latinos who said they intend to vote, compared with 73 percent of Latino registered voters who said they were certain to vote in February. Only 46 percent of Latino voters under 30 said they plan to vote, a figure that Kumar said jumped out.”

Conversely, a robust turnout of diverse Latino communities could, not only improve Biden’s electoral vote tally, but also help Democrats win majorities of the U.S. Senate and state legislatures.

Teixeira: Biden Unites the ‘Widest Possible Coalition’

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

So, Was Biden the Most Electable Candidate? Yup.

Once upon a time, there was quite a debate about this, including whether electability was even a real thing. Political scientist David Hopkins notes in his Honest Graft blog:

“In the young progressive circles that are disproportionately well-represented in the online world, it was common either to reject the electability logic altogether or to claim that it actually favored candidates on the left. The science reporter at a well-known “explainer” website even argued that because differences in the relative potential strength of prospective nominees cannot be determined precisely in advance, the entire concept was dubious even in the abstract: “it’s subjective, not objective . . . electability ain’t no science.”

These arguments did not carry the day. Rank-and-file Democrats did think Biden was more electable and they were right to do so. Hopkins:

“From one perspective, the electability argument for Biden has been completely vindicated. Biden has opened up a bigger lead over Trump in the national popular vote than any candidate has enjoyed at this stage since Bill Clinton coasted to re-election in 1996, and he is so well-positioned in the electoral college that the battleground map has expanded into the traditional red territory of Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas. The Trump campaign has proven unable as of yet to land a damaging punch on Biden, and has even struggled to find a promising line of attack.

Biden hasn’t been as invisible a candidate as some critics claim, but his campaign activities during the pandemic have not generated much sustained attention. Because journalists do not find the very familiar Biden to be a particularly fruitful source of interesting stories, the national media has been focusing instead almost entirely on Trump, and Trump’s spiraling political problems, since the Democratic nomination wrapped up after Super Tuesday. The relative novelty of nearly every other major potential nominee—Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg—would have attracted more coverage from the media and pulled the spotlight away from Trump much more frequently….

[E]enough evidence now exists to shed light on two claims made by some advocates of non-Biden candidates in the 2020 Democratic primaries. One is that there are so few remaining swing voters in our current age of rampant polarization that mobilization of the party base is more productive than trying to achieve a broader appeal, and the other is that a Biden nomination would not excite enough voters on the left to stimulate this necessary mobilization.

Both of these claims have already been contradicted by the polls. Biden wouldn’t have pulled into the strong lead he now holds if he weren’t drawing significant support from previous Republican voters. (According to recent surveys by the New York Times, 14 percent of battleground state residents who supported Trump in 2016 are not supporting him in 2020.) After years of media stories about Trump’s skill in stoking the passionate devotion of his own party, the last few months have forced a widespread journalistic rediscovery of the importance of swing voters and the danger of Trump’s declining popularity among this still-pivotal bloc. And while Biden himself doesn’t inspire as much personal enthusiasm among Democrats as Trump does among many Republicans, overall levels of interest in the election are equal across party lines: Democratic voters are as motivated to vote against the president as Republicans are to vote for him.”

it’s also worth noting the overwhelming support Biden is receiving from the supporters of other Democratic nomination candidates. Nate Cohn:

“Over all, voters in the battleground states who said Bernie Sanders was their top choice for president said they backed Mr. Biden over President Trump, 87 percent to 4 percent. If there was a Bernie-or-Bust movement, it has either faded with the conclusion of the Democratic race, or it never existed in serious numbers in the battleground states.

Mr. Biden commands even more significant support from voters who supported Elizabeth Warren in the primary. The Democrats who said she was their top choice to be the Democratic nominee backed Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump by a staggering margin of 96 percent to 0 percent — even wider than Mr. Biden’s 96-1 lead among those who said he was their top choice in the Democratic primary….

The unity of Democratic voters in the Times/Siena polls represents a marked change from four years ago, when a significant number of Sanders supporters never embraced Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. According to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, she won just 74 percent of voters who backed Mr. Sanders in the 2016 primary, while 12 percent voted for Mr. Trump.”

I know some–many–are reluctant to admit it but Biden is turning out to be a truly excellent candidate for the current moment and his opponent. He is uniting the widest possible coalition and efficiently turning Trump disapproval into the cold, hard currency of Democratic votes. It’s a beautiful thing.

That’s why the conservative Cook Political Report ratings now have Biden with a majority of the electoral college solid, likely or leaning Democratic (see graphic below). That’s why Biden is:

* Steadily firming up overwhelming youth and nonwhite support

* Cleaning up among white college voters

* Cutting Clinton’s deficit among white noncollege voters in half

* Producing a double-digit pro-Democratic shift among senior voters.

Like I say, it’s a beautiful thing.

Galston: President Trump is losing support among young white working-class voters

The following article by William A. Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of  “Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy” and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from Brookings:

So far in his re-election campaign, President Trump has stubbornly refused to expand his base, playing instead to a brand of populist conservatism that rests on solid support from white working-class voters. But a Pew Research Center survey released at the end of June suggests that voters in this group under age 40 are breaking ranks. They are less likely to say that they plan to vote for the president this November than are their parents and grandparents, they question his competence to handle the major issues facing the country, and they have formed a negative assessment of his character.

The same poll shows that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going, and only 17% are proud of the country’s condition. Only 39% approve of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, and former Vice President Joe Biden leads him by 10 percentage points, 54-44.

Against this backdrop, the erosion in the Trump white working-class base is a major blow to the president’s reelection chances. As the following tables show, weakness appears in four areas tested by the poll—voting intentions, assessments of Trump’s presidency and character, and judgments on his handling of key issues.

Table 1: Voting intentions of white working-class voters by age

  18-39 40-64 65+
Voting for/leaning toward Trump 55% 66% 62%
Voting for/leaning toward Biden 40% 32% 35%

Former Vice President Biden doesn’t hold any special appeal for white working-class voters under 40. Indeed, voters over 65 are more likely to think well of him. Of the 40% of young voters who support Biden, only 5% express approval of him, while 35% say they that they will be casting a vote against President Trump. As Table 2 shows, a plurality of these voters think that the Trump presidency is a failure.

Table 2: Has Trump been a good president? (White working-class voters by age)

18-39 40-64 65+
Trump has been a good or great president 44% 59% 57%
Trump has been a poor or terrible president 46% 31% 37%

President Trump’s competence

Table 3 summarizes white working-class voters’ confidence that the president can address key issues “very” or “somewhat” well.

Table 3: Trump’s handling of issues among white working-class voters by age

18-39 40-64 65+
Handle the coronavirus outbreak 46% 64% 59%
Make good decisions about foreign policy 47% 67% 61%
Make good decisions about economic policy 57% 72% 66%
Effectively handle race relations 35% 57% 55%
Effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice 46% 65% 60%
Bring the country together 35% 51% 47%

President Trump’s character

Table 4 summarizes white working-class voters’ belief that certain words describe Mr. Trump “very” or “fairly” well.

Table 4: Descriptions of President Trump among white working-class voters by age

18-39 40-64 65+
Courageous 50% 66% 61%
Honest 41% 58% 54%
Even-tempered 26% 42% 39%
Cares about the needs of ordinary people 46% 64% 59%
A good role model 34% 50% 50%

Here, as with questions of competence, there is a consistent difference between white working-class voters under age 40 and older voters. Among the plausible hypotheses: the younger members of this group are more comfortable with diversity and less moved by the memory of vanished high-pay manufacturing jobs. While we can speculate about the reasons for this difference, only further research can clarify them.

Losing the future

After the 2012 election, Republican leaders issued a report recommending that their party reach out to younger and non-white voters. Four years later, Donald Trump shocked the world by doing the reverse—and winning. But the question remains: as education and demography have made white working-class voters a shrinking share of the electorate, was Trump’s victory a harbinger of the future or the last gasp of a dying order?

The results summarized in this article suggest that the latter is more likely. If even younger white Americans without college degrees are turning away from what the Republican Party has become, the choice Mr. Trump represents is a cul de sac.

We will not know until the votes are cast. But if current surveys are leading indicators, after November 3rd the Republican Party will be forced to debate its future more fundamentally than at any time since the 1970s.

A note on method: All numbers are for registered voters, and the differences between 18-39-year-olds and other age groups are statistically significant. I am grateful to the Pew team, and especially to Calvin Jordan, for their patient responsiveness to my endless requests for additional information.

KY’s McGrath-McConnell Battle As the Marquee Senate Race

As Trump’s chief enabler, Mitch McConnell, will have a lot to answer for when historians look back on the Trump era as the most polarizing and destructive presidency in American history. Not that Senate Majority Leader McConnell cares, for his overarching concern seems to be acquisition and deployment of political power, without regard to moral considerations, including the well-being of his constituents or the nation as a whole.

And if the G.O.P. suffers an historic rout on November 3rd, McConnell will have earned a large share of the blame as the one Republican who could have kept Trump on a leash, simply by insisting on more of a spirit of bipartisanship and a just a little moderation for the sake of legislative success. Even if McConnell wins re-election, but his party loses their senate majority, his fellow Republicans may call for new party leadership as an essential requirement for rebuilding.

Thus Amy McGrath’s campaign to defeat McConnell is now drawing more media coverage than any of the other competitive Senate races. But there are some other, less obvious reasons for the growing attention being focused on McGrath’s campaign, some of which are outlined by Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics, including:

…McGrath doesn’t need to beat McConnell to reshape the Senate map. All she has to do is be competitive enough that she a) keeps McConnell focused on his own race and b) forces him (and, potentially, the national Republican Party) to spend time and money ensuring that the Republican leader wins.

While Booker, the youngest black Kentucky lawmaker at 35 years old, got the lion’s share of positive press attention in the final weeks of the primary race, there was a reason that Senate Democrats’ campaign arm had endorsed McGrath’s candidacy in February: Because she is a remarkably strong fundraiser…And, as of June 3, McGrath had raised $41 million for her Senate campaign — and had more than $19 million left in her bank account as of that date. That’s $4 million more than McConnell had on hand at the same time. (McConnell has raised more than $32 million for the race so far.)
Cillizza concedes that “McGrath is a less able campaigner than she is a fundraiser…she didn’t beat [Rep. Andy] Barr in 2018 — despite that being a very good year to be a Democratic challenger…Yet, “if she can raise, let’s say, $80 million total, then McConnell and the national Republican Party apparatus are also going to have to spend heavily to ensure he wins again — despite the clear Republican lean of the state at the federal level. (The last Democrat to win a Senate race in Kentucky was Sen. Wendell Ford back in 1992.)” Further,
So, let’s say that $20 million gets spent on the Kentucky race to make sure that McConnell is insulated from the TV ad onslaught that McGrath’s fundraising can buy…Well, that’s $20 million that can’t be spent on trying to reelect Arizona Sen. Martha McSally. Or Maine Sen. Susan Collins. Or North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Or Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler. You get the idea.

And then there’s this to consider: If McConnell, the best fundraiser among Senate Republicans, is focused on raising money for his own reelection race, he can’t raise as much money for all of those senators I just named above. Ditto for if he is pinned down in Kentucky rather than traveling across the country for events to collect cash for the most vulnerable GOP incumbents.
Winning, when it comes to McConnell, isn’t necessarily the goal for Senate Democrats as they try to net the three seats (if Joe Biden wins the White House) or four (if he doesn’t) they need for the majority. Senate Democrats don’t need Kentucky to get to the majority. In fact, there are roughly a dozen GOP seats that would likely fall before McConnell loses.
Instead, keeping McConnell occupied on his own race has to be Democrats’ goal. And McGrath makes that much more likely.

McGrath’s weaknesses as a candidate as a “less able campaigner than she is a fund-raiser” cited by Cillizza may matter less in the pandemic environment, since traveling around giving speeches and participating in debates is not a campaign priority in 2020. Democrats should nonetheless make sure their best debate coaches and media advisors are available to McGrath’s campaign.

But McGrath’s campaign should leverage her impressive success as a fund-raiser by producing the most effective ads, social media strategy and ground game. In so doing, she will maximize her chances to win. But even if she loses, she will have served the causes of strengthening Democratic prospects and hastening the end of McConnell’s reckless reign of the Senate. Those who want to contribute to these goals can do so right here.

Teixeira: Is Stan Greenberg Right to Say We Should Believe the Polls This Time?

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

I largely agree with Greenberg’s analysis in this Atlantic piece. I thought it would be interesting to go through the piece and annotate his argument a bit where I have something to add.

“[T]his moment is very different. To start, during the summer and fall of 2016, Clinton never had the kind of national poll lead that Biden now has. She led by an average of four points four months before the election and the same four points just before Election Day. This year, after Biden effectively clinched the nomination, he moved into an average six-point lead over Trump, which has grown to nearly 10 points after the death of George Floyd and the weeks of protests that have followed. The lingering apprehension among Democrats fails to recognize just how much the political landscape has changed since 2016. We are looking at different polls, a different America, and different campaigns with different leaders.”

This is all correct. It is now incorrect to say Clinton followed the same trajectory and still lost.

“The Clinton campaign’s worst blunder came in September 2016, when the candidate described “half of Trump’s supporters” as “deplorables” and walked right into the white working-class revolt against elites. Her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders had exposed a lack of enthusiasm for her in white working-class suburbs that Barack Obama had won. Her campaign hoped to make up for the lost votes with landslide wins among women, voters of color, and voters in big cities. White working-class voters noticed the lack of respect, and Trump ran up startling margins with them: He won these men by 48 points and women by 27, according to exit polls.”

I agree with this; anyone who doesn’t think Clinton committed political malpractice with how she handled white working class voters in 2016 has rocks in their head. However, note that the exit poll figures quoted by Greenberg are almost certainly too high. Better data however still show an immense swing away from the Democrats among this demographic.

“And the white working-class shift toward Trump is the biggest reason the national polls overestimated Clinton’s margin by two points and the state polls by much more. Mostly using exit polls from prior elections as their guide, pollsters—including me—had overestimated the number of four-year college graduates in the electorate. Getting that wrong mattered a lot in an election where the white working class was in revolt. Crucially, many pollsters, including me, have adjusted our assumptions about the makeup of the November 2020 electorate.”

Correct. Though of course I had been pointing this out for 20 years or so prior to 2016 and no one seemed to think t was a problem worth attending to.

“So one reason to trust my polls more now than in 2016 is this change: Four years ago, those without a four-year degree made up 48 percent of my survey respondents; today they account for 60 percent. Whites without a college degree were 33 percent of my surveys; today they are 43 percent. That is a huge change—an elixir against being deceived again. The pain of Trump’s victory and disastrous presidency has concentrated the minds of campaign staff and the polling profession in ways that give me confidence that Biden’s lead in the polls is real.”

Better late than never. Let’s hope other pollsters have followed the same trajectory.

“Much more devastating to Trump’s prospects is waning support from women who form a majority of the white working class. Without strong support from these voters, Trump cannot win. Right now, Biden is losing them by only seven points in my same battleground poll.”

This is correct and is a point I have stressed many times. It really is true that Trump cannot win with his current support levels among this demographic.

“Recently, Trump’s average approval rating has slipped a bit to about 41 percent, while his disapproval rating has jumped to about 56 percent. That looks a lot like the 14-point margin for Biden over Trump in the most recent New York Times poll.”

This is consistent with the 538 running poll average on approval. The importance of such low approval cannot be overemphasized–approval numbers like this are a death sentence.

“In the next four months, many things could put Biden’s current lead at risk. On occasion, between now and November, Biden will garble his words in an interview or make some public statement that many people will struggle to understand. He will surely sound out of touch or offend one group or another. Younger voters and Sanders primary voters do not appear to be rapturously excited about Biden. Calls for defunding the police reveal genuine fractures in the Democratic Party.”

I am less worried about the youth vote at this point. The defunding the police movement could be more of a genuine problem but Biden seems to be fairly deft in how he’s handling it.

“Even before the pandemic, the American political landscape had changed dramatically since Trump’s election, and not in ways that favor the incumbent. Biden’s big poll lead should not make Democrats complacent, but neither should members of my party shake their heads and think, Here it comes again. Rather, the current polls should persuade Democrats to work for the greatest possible rejection of a widely distrusted U.S. president and the political party that enables him.”

What he said.

Which Anti-Trump Ads Resonate?

From “Democratic ad makers think they’ve discovered Trump’s soft spot” by David Siders at Politico:

As in 2016, ad makers are focusing on Trump’s character. But unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.

“You can’t chase the Trump clown car,” said Bradley Beychok, president of the progressive group American Bridge. “Him drinking water and throwing a glass is goofy and may make for a good meme, but it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things … What people care about is this outbreak.”

Siders notes that “In their preparations for 2020, outside Democratic groups spent more than a year surveying voters in swing states by phone and online. They convened in-person focus groups and enlisted voters in swing states to keep diaries of their media consumption…Multiple outside groups said they began to test their ads more rigorously than in 2016, using online panels to determine how likely an ad was to either change a viewer’s impression of Trump or to change how he or she planned to vote.”

In addition, “Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, alone expects to test more than 500 ads this cycle. Priorities, American Bridge and other outside groups, including organized labor, have been meeting regularly to share internal research and media plans.”

Among research findings, Siders reports:

The advertising elements that appear to work, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democrats involved in message research, vary from ad to ad. Using Trump’s own words against him often tests well, as do charts and other graphics, which serve to highlight Trump’s distaste for science. Voters who swung from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2016 — and who regret it — are good messengers. And so is Joe Biden, whose voice is widely considered preferable to that of a professional narrator. Not only does he convey empathy, according to Democrats inside and outside Biden’s campaign, but using Biden’s voice “helps people think about him as president,” said Patrick Bonsignore, Biden’s director of paid media.

Siders concludes, “But the ad makers’ overarching takeaway from their research was this: While Trump may not be vulnerable on issues of character alone, as he demonstrated in 2016, he is vulnerable when character is tied to his policy record on the economy and health care.”

Teixeira: Dems Can Avoid Backlash – If They Reject Divisive Policies

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

Should or Should We Not Be Worried About Backlash? (2)

Well, at this point I’m not too worried, given the dire situation in the country and how badly Trump has handled it, both in policy and political terms. Voters increasingly just want to get rid of the guy, which makes them less likely to be swayed by issues that in other circumstances would have some significant potential for backlash.

But that’s no reason for complacency. Danger still lurks. And backlash remains a more significant potential problem than, say lack of support among black or young voters, which recent polls show firming up rapidly.

Indeed, the most activist-minded among these constituencies, who have been turning out for the BLM/George Floyd protests, seem likely to vote overwhelmingly for Biden. A tidbit from the most recent recent Tom Edsall column:

“In an article posted June 28 at Business Insider, [Sociologist Dana] Fisher wrote that in studying the demonstrators:

Every single person surveyed at events in Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles over the past month reported that they would be supporting Joe Biden in the election. In fact, not one respondent reported that they would vote for Donald Trump.”

This certainly suggests there is no reason for Biden to embrace the more radical demands coming out of the protests, such as for defunding the police and reparations. He’s already got the protesters’ votes and presumably those of their co-thinkers around the country.

But backlash, as I noted, has more potential to be a real problem. From the Edsall article:

“Fisher wrote that 60 to 65 percent of the demonstrators agreed with the statement “some level of violence is justified in the pursuit of political goals….

“The views of protesters concerning the legitimacy of violence stand in contrast to the views of voters taken as a whole.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 72 percent of those polled disagreed with the statement “more violent protests and unrest are an appropriate response to the killing of an unarmed man by police,” including a solid majority of Democrats.

An even larger percentage (79), including 77 percent of Democrats, agreed with the statement: “The property damage caused by some protesters undermines the original protest’s case for justice.”

The Times/Siena survey asked voters whether they support or oppose “reducing funding to police departments,” a less extreme step than the call among some demonstrators to “defund the police.”

Nearly two thirds of voters polled, 63 percent, opposed reduction of funding of police departments, including 50 percent who said they “strongly oppose” such actions.

What makes these issues even more potentially polarizing, going into the 2020 election, is that there has been an increase in violent crime, especially homicide and shooting incidents, in the weeks since George Floyd was killed, in some of the cities experiencing sustained protests and anti-police demonstrations. These cities include Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Chicago.”

So continue to worry. Trump is his own worst enemy but that’s no reason to hand him issues that he can–and will–try to exploit to avert his free fall.

Graham: Changing Views of Racial Injustice Sinking Trump

David A Graham explains the “surprising reason” why “White Voters Are Abandoning Trump” at The Atlantic. Staff writer Graham argues that, even more than the pandemic and tanking economy, “the driving factor for Trump’s collapse appears to be race.” Further,

Polls have consistently shown that Americans disapprove of his response to protests of police violence and believe that he has worsened race relations. In the New York Times/Siena poll, race relations (33 percent) and the protests (29 percent) are the only areas where issue approval lags behind his overall vote preference. In the Harvard/Harris poll, the same two areas earn Trump his worst marks of any issue, though they are still slightly higher than his expected vote.”

Voters are right that Trump is worsening race relations and handling the protests poorly. In the past two days alone, the president has retweeted (and then deleted) a video of one of his supporters shouting “White power!” and another of two white supporters pointing guns at black protesters marching past their house…As my colleagues and I have reported, exploiting racial tensions has been a way of life for Trump since the earliest days of his business career, and it was the unifying concept of his 2016 campaign. He has followed that path during his presidency, including his notorious response to a violent white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, in which he found “very fine people” on both sides.

Graham says, “What is different this time is the way people are responding”:

But why? Perhaps it’s just a matter of what issues are most important to voters right now. There’s always been a sizable contingent of reluctant or conflicted Trump supporters. In 2016 exit polls, only 35 percent of voters said Trump had the temperament to be president, but he won 46 percent of the popular vote. These voters are a familiar staple of news coverage too—the ones who preface their support with “I don’t always like the way he phrases it” or “I wish he would tone it down a little, but…”

There are apparently a sizable number of voters – nobody knows how many – who are not particularly liberal on racial justice issues, but recognize that Trump has gone out of his way to fan the flames of racial discord to further divide and polarize Americans and needlessly disrupt our society to an unprecedented level. Graham notes that “the profusion of news coverage has made issues of race impossible to ignore,” and:

Alternatively, perhaps voters are shifting not just their priorities but their views. As the political scientist Michael Tesler writes, there’s evidence of real shifts in public opinionon race over the past six weeks or so. While views on policing are moving in response to a wide range of incidents, it’s clear that the Floyd case—brutal, senseless, and captured in excruciating clarity on video—has captured white attention in a way other deaths at the hands of police have not. One reason for that may be the coronavirus. Ashley Jardina, a political scientist who studies racial attitudes among white people, told me that she suspects because people are stuck at home due to the pandemic, they’re consuming more news and changing their views on race…

The hardest-core Trump supporters—especially non-college-educated white men—are unlikely to be swayed by the news. They are why Trump’s approval likely has a floor somewhere in the 30s, and why his share in national horse-race polls does too. But if reluctant Trump voters from 2016 are undergoing a change on their view of race relations, it could have seismic implications for his reelection.

Graham doesn’t dispute that former Vice President Biden’s positive image further undermines Trump’s tanking prospects, and notes that, “steady-rolling Joe Biden—creates a contrast that is unflattering for Trump, especially in times of crisis.”

With political preferences hardening and time running out, Graham concludes that “In a new YouGov poll, 94 percent of registered voters said they had already made up their mind about how they’ll vote in November. That gives the president little maneuvering room to regain them and get back in a winning position—especially since there’s not much chance that he’s going to change his own rhetoric or style.”

Put another way, Trump’s racially-driven ‘inflame the base’ strategy has reached its limit in a polarization-weary electorate. His mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and limp response to the declining economy also make a Democratic landslide a growing possibility – if Biden and Democrats play a wise hand for the next 17 weeks.

Teixeira: Hold the Line, Joe!

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

The most militant activists in and around the Black Lives Matter movement continue to hector Biden to adopt strenuously radical demands such as defund the police. So far, he has refused. Excellent. There is no reason for him to do so. He doesn’t need the votes of these hyper-activists, since they are few in number, and as for the people these activists claim they represent, he already has strong support across the board. He doesn’t need to embrace defund the police to get their votes. And most of all, he just needs to keep the support he’s already built up among suburban, moderate, older and white noncollege voters to win a smashing victory. A ringing call to defund the police will only undercut, not build, the Biden coalition.

The fact of the matter is that people aren’t interested in getting rid of their current police force–as defund the police implies–and somehow replacing it with a new one. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, just 14 percent supported eliminating and replacing their current police department, while 81 percent were opposed. Even among black voters, the split was only 32 percent for/61 percent against.

In the same poll, 67 percent of voters said they supported the ongoing George Floyd protests. What that means–making the reasonable assumption that all eliminate and replace voters also supported the protests–is that 4 in 5 protest supporters do not want to get rid of and replace their current police force.

So defund the police just doesn’t cut it with American voters. And, no it doesn’t work to explain what the slogan “really means” is providing some more money for social services and changing the mix of police activities, etc, etc. If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

From the Politico article on this controversy:

“During the primaries, Biden bet everything on winning overwhelming support from African American voters, who eventually reversed the near collapse of his campaign in the first three states.

Biden’s advisers were often less attentive—and sometimes downright dismissive—of certain obsessions of the social media left. Biden did not discuss white privilege the way Kirsten Gillibrand did. He didn’t endorse reparations or the legalization of marijuana when some of his chief rivals did. He stubbornly insisted that the two most important primary constituencies were political moderates and older working-class African Americans, two groups without much influence online. The Biden campaign’s unspoken primary slogan could have been, “Twitter isn’t real life.”

This cautiousness and skepticism has spilled into the general election. One way to think of the Biden campaign’s navigation of racial issues is that he and his advisers care a lot more about addressing policy demands than they do about addressing cultural issues.

“There is a conversation that’s going on on Twitter that they don’t care about,” one Democratic strategist observed. “They won the primary by ignoring all of that. The Biden campaign does not care about the critical race theory-intersectional left that has taken over places like The New York Times. You can be against chokeholds and not believe in white fragility. You can be for reforming police departments and don’t necessarily have to believe that the United States is irredeemably racist.”

Amen, you don’t and Biden doesn’t and that’s a very good thing!