washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

staff

Warnock Elected to U.S. Senate, Ossoff Likely Winner Also

The major media has called the U.S. Senate race in Georgia for Democrat Raphael Warnock, and they will likely call GA Democrat Jon Ossoff the winner of his U.S. Senate race later today. As of this writing, Rev. Warnock has 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Loeffler’s 49.4 percent, while Ossoff leads Perdue by a margin of 50.2 percent to Perdue’s 49.8 percent, according to CNN Politics.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley notes that “CNN reports the following notable vote tallies are left:

  • 20,000 to 25,000 votes left in Fulton County.
  • 19,000 votes left in DeKalb County.
  • Almost 5,000 votes left in Gwinnett County.
  • 7,000 votes left in deep-red Coffee County in south Georgia.
  • 3,000 votes in Chatham County (Savannah).

So most of what is left is in pretty Democratic territory.”

If Ossoff increases his margin of victory beyond .5 percent, as seems likely,  there will be no automatic recount.


Yglesias: An Unheralded Progressive Success Story

In his recent post, “The CARES superdole was a huge success:  Progressives should learn to be happy when good things happen!” at slowboring.com, Matthew Yglesias shows once again why he is one of the left’s most perceptive, subscription-worthy thinkers:

With the relief bill squared away, the time is right to consider a question the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal asked the day after Christmas: why didn’t the success of enhanced Unemployment Insurance ever enter the narrative as a progressive success story?

Mike Konczal @rortybomb

For the last 7+ months I’ve been saying that the Left should claim, highlight, and center the fight over extending the massive expansion of UI, not just as an important program but as a model for reinvigorating Social Security. My read is that this didn’t happen. Why is that?

Mike Konczal @rortybomb

Unemployment insurance expansion was a big victory for progressive priorities: social insurance, fighting labor fissuring, empowering workers, especially low-wage ones. It’s also helping to fight a depression. Why isn’t the Left rallying on its extension? https://t.co/Q6ochwcOhT

I think there are a lot of specific ingredients that went into this, some good and some not so good. But I also think those specifics came together the way they did because there’s a norm in American progressive politics of looking at every glass as half empty.

Basically, the understanding is that whoever can paint the darkest possible portrait of the status quo is the one who is showing the most commitment to the cause. And you see this norm at work across climate change, health care, criminal justice reform, the economy, and everything else. If you’re not saying the sky is falling, that shows you don’t really care. A true comrade in the struggle would deny that any progress has been made or insist that any good news is trivial.

I tend to think this approach to politics is counterproductive — it’s psychologically and emotionally exhausting, out of touch with people’s lived experience of the world, and ultimately demoralizing and un-motivating. But even if it does in some sense work, it’s simply not true.

Progressive catastrophism is everywhere

In my recent post “A better way to cure recessions,” I noted that the personal savings rate is up in the United States (down from its peak when everyone got their $1,200 but still well above the pre-pandemic baseline) and also that “unlike during the Great Recession, the 67 percent or so of the public who owns a home and the 55 percent of Americans who own stock have seen their net worth rise.”

In the very next paragraph, I acknowledged that this is happening “amidst stories about overwhelmed food banks from San Antonio to Miami and beyond” but I got a lot of blowback for pointing out that most people are doing okay as if that was a way of dismissing the suffering of the minority of people who’ve lost their jobs and are now in desperate need of relief.

Similarly, back in late May, I ran into accidental intra-office controversy by pitching a piece about how police killings of African-Americans had become less common since Ferguson. My thought was that this was good, it showed that political pressure for reform was delivering results. But it was heard by many people as dismissing the problem, or ignoring the lived experiences of people who’ve suffered at the hands of the police.

And of course you see this on climate change, which is legitimately A Bad Thing but where the most keyed-up activists want you to believe it’s literally an existential threat to continued human existence.

When Barack Obama first took office, his administration enacted a bunch of progressive legislation. Bouts of activist legislating normally generate a thermostatic backlash, and Obama’s was no exception. But he managed to end his term popular, and has remained popular since, and most of his legislative achievements remain on the books. Everyone — including Obama — concedes that these achievements were not perfect. But to actually celebratethem as big achievements worth clapping for and taking credit for would be to mark you out as very much not a true progressive.

So I think the left’s attitude toward CARES needs to be seen in that light. Do you judge the Affordable Care Act on how much it helped people compared to the status quo ante or on how far it diverged from a hypothetical perfect health care bill? I’d be inclined to say the former, but the conventional left approach is the latter.

The CARES Act was really good

So what was the CARES Act?

Well, it spent about $300 billion sending direct checks to most American households. It also sent $500 billion to the Fed to capitalize some lending programs targeting large businesses. The funds there overwhelmingly didn’t actually get spent, but their existence likely helped keep corporate borrowing costs low. The law provided an increase in SNAP benefits, more money for child nutrition programs, money for food banks, student loan relief, money for schools, money for mass transit agencies, etc. There was also the Paycheck Protection Program which essentially gave small businesses free money to keep their staff on payroll.

But another huge chunk of it was to set aside normal concerns about incentives and give people who lost their jobs $600 per week in extra Unemployment Insurance benefits, over and above what they would normally be eligible for.

There were a million viral tweets about the bozos in Congress somehow expecting people to subsist on $1,200, but that’s not what happened. The $1,200 was a nice little stimulus sent out to everyone with the expectation that most people would subsist the way they’d long been subsisting — by doing their jobs or perhaps by retiring on Social Security and savings. If you lost your job, you got $600 per week — in other words, $15/hour on a standard workweek — in addition to your normal Unemployment Insurance benefits.

This was a huge, albeit temporary, expansion of the social safety net. But instead of celebrating its success and calling for it to be extended and used as a model in the future, a lot of people on the left seemed committed to pretending that it never happened. Note, for example, that $2,000 Canadian dollars per month is a lot less than $600 American dollars per week.

This was a very successful program. So successful that personal income actually rose during the pandemic.

And that’s not a “rich get richer” kind of thing — the poverty rate fell. And it’s no surprise. Peter Ganong, Pacal Noel, and Joseph Vavra found that under the CARES superdole, “two-thirds of UI eligible workers can receive benefits which exceed lost earnings and one-fifth can receive benefits at least double lost earnings.”

Indeed, in wonk circles this was the conversation — were CARES benefits too generous? Which makes the lack of enthusiasm for telling the story of how these generous benefits were good all the more disappointing.

A model for the future

The pandemic is, of course, a very unusual situation.

Part of the idea of Unemployment Insurance is that even during perfectly “normal” times when the economy is in fine shape, there are always some businesses somewhere that are failing or laying workers off. Under those circumstances, a UI boost that leaves the unemployed with more money than they were making during employment would be genuinely a bit perverse.

But as University of Massachusetts economist Arindrajit Dube points out, the current benefits are very low and evince a combination of stinginess and paranoia that unemployed people will just deliberately lollygag.

Arindrajit Dube @arindube

Take a moment to imagine: You just got laid off. You, not someone in abstract. Under “normal rules” you’re entitled to ~26 weeks of unemployment benefits, which are ~1/2 your salary…BUT… capped weekly at: $240 in AZ $247 in LA #275 in FL … $823 in MA How would you fare?

Prof Dynarski @dynarski

I do wish that more of the people making policy decisions about unemployment checks had ever subsisted on them

One clear message of this pandemic should be that those fears are overstated. Even with the very generous superdole in place, people did go back to work as businesses reopened in the summer and fall. People know that UI doesn’t last forever and prefer a decent job to not having a job at all.

We should scrap these weekly caps, noting with Elira Kuka that more generous UI schemes mitigate the health impacts of unemployment. But we should also make the benefit boosts an automatic thing that happens any time job openings rise. Ioana Marinescu’s research during the Great Recession confirmed that it’s true that generous UI reduces the intensity with which job-seekers seek employment opportunities, but she also finds that since there was no impact on the number of actual job openings, nothing about generous UI actually reduced employment. And as demand-side policy, Unemployment Insurance is a perfect mix of targeted (the people who get it don’t have jobs, so they really need the money to meet current spending needs) and universal (everyone who works is eligible for UI if they lose their job, which is a risk everyone faces).

There is also the longstanding thought in the literature (see Acemoglu & Shimer and Marimon & Ziblatti) that it’s good that UI makes workers less eager to jump at the first job available because it leads to better matching and higher productivity in the long run.

Now of course it’s true that the pandemic also revealed serious shortcomings in our benefits administration system and a lot of people had trouble getting help. But we shouldn’t let negativity bias lead us to overstate those problems. The numbers on personal income and poverty don’t lie — millions of people in need got help. We should view the program as a success to build on for the future. Upgrade the benefits administration (probably by nationalizing the system and taking it out of state hands), bump up the “normal” level of benefits, and make the superdole—the $600 per week increase in UI and stimulus checks—an automatic part of the national macroeconomic toolkit.

Many aspects of America’s pandemic response were a disaster, but poverty went down, which underscores that the welfare state is amazing and we should have more of it.

Nothing ever ends

In my real life, I am a kind of grumpy dyspeptic person. I’m not great at looking on the bright side, at seeing the silver lining, or about living in the now. I get very frustrated by setbacks, very upset when things don’t go the way I planned, and generally speaking am very impatient.

As with any other set of personal characteristics, there are good and bad sides to this sort of mentality, but mostly I want to convey that I really do appreciate the appeal of centering your thinking on an idealized end point and then complaining about all the ways that Obama or the CARES Act or whatever else fell short. After all, compare what I am saying we should do with UI and what CARES did with UI, and CARES looks terrible:

  • It did nothing to address the incredibly stingy base benefits in most states.
  • It had no automaticity so it expired awkwardly midway through the crisis.
  • It not only relied on our antiquated benefits administration system, it did nothing to improve it.

But it doesn’t make sense to do politics this way. One reason is because the model where you sketch out an idealized policy endpoint, then wage political combat, then win, then implement your vision just isn’t how anything actually happens. Not only was Social Security’s rollout bungled from a macroeconomic point of view (they started collecting taxes years before they collected benefits), it wasn’t until 20 years after the original Social Security Act’s passage that benefits were expanded to huge swathes of the population. Then it took 20 more years to get automatic cost of living adjustments. And the program still has some weird lacunae that leave out certain categories of state and local government workers, and doesn’t really meet the needs of the very elderly in an aging society.

Medicaid has been a policy triumph, but the initial program LBJ signed into law in 1965 was tiny compared to today’s Medicaid juggernaut that was largely the result of dogged work by Rep. Henry Waxman in the 1980s, some judicious interventions by the Clinton administration, and then the Obama-era expansion which lives on as a series of state-by-state fights.

The point is that politics is a process, and that’s especially true in a country like the United States that has a lot of institutional veto points. I won’t redo the entire slow boring of hard boards schtick, but the idea that past victories were single decisive battles won at unique moments in time is an illusion. Brown v Board of Education was the culmination of a 15-year litigation strategy that started with a law school case in 1938. But even though the NAACP won in court in 1954, real desegregation didn’t happen until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which in turn built upon the Civil Rights Act of 1960 and its predecessor, the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

It would of course be absurd to be satisfied with any of those interim outcomes, whether on health care or retirement security or civil rights, and it’s just the same with Unemployment Insurance. But successful movements claim victories as victories, highlight the ways in which their victories have helped people and debunked critics’ fears, and move on to build the case for new things. Politicians who do the spadework of getting things done should be praised and not ignored, and while journalists should of course highlight shortcomings, we should also bring perspective to bear. We had more articles written about benefit administration problems than we did about the reduction in poverty — that doesn’t make sense journalistically and it’s not politically constructive.

CARES was really good; it’s really good that a form of enhanced benefits is being extended by the new bill; and while none of this has been perfect, it provides a real template for further improvements.


Teixeira: The Sobering Downballot Facts

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

The good folks at the Cook Political Report have produced their traditional list of end-of-cycle facts about the the most recent election. I call your attention to the downballot facts. They should provoke some serious thinking about how the Democrats blew it so badly. The 2022 election could be a serious bloodbath without some very smart Democratic campaigning. The 2020 results do not inspire confidence.

SENATE:

12. Senate races still largely went the same way as the presidential election did in that state, save for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who outran Trump by 7.2 points to win re-election. In 2008, she outran John McCain on the ballot by nearly 21 points, and in 1996 she outpaced Bob Dole in the state by more than 18 points. Her 2020 result is still the largest overperformance in a competitive race with Trump on the ballot by a Republican ever, outpacing Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s 6.69 in 2016, but Collins was in far more danger than Portman was and Trump won Ohio, while he lost Maine in 2020. In 2016, every single Senate race went the same way as the presidential race; this year, it was all but one.

13. Democrat Sara Gideon in Maine had the worst performance by a Democrat in a Toss Up race in comparison to the presidential results, running behind Joe Biden in the state by 11 points.

14. The Republican who ran the most behind Trump was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose winning margin was 4.4 points less than Trump, but he nonetheless sailed to a very comfortable 20 point win.

15. If Republicans hold onto both Senate seats in the January 5 Georgia runoffs, it will be the first time since tracking our Toss Up races that all the contests broke 100 percent one way for one party.

16. In Senate races we didn’t rate as Solid, Democrats (candidates + outside groups) spent $1,078,640,272 on TV ads, according to data from AdImpact. Republicans meanwhile, spent $850,828,443. In total, $1,929,468,715 was spent on TV ads this cycle.

17. The most expensive Senate race was North Carolina, where a total of $263,675,801 was spent by both parties on TV ads. Democrats spent more ($151,694,974) than Republicans ($111,980,827), outspending them by $39.7 million. Iowa was second, with $217,043,080 spent in total. Again, Democrats ($128,320,541) outspent Republicans ($88,722,539) by $39.6 million. Democrats nonetheless lost both races.

18. The most money spent in a state per vote was in Montana, where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and his Democratic allies ended up spending about $323 per vote. In comparison, GOP Sen. Steve Daines, who won by 10 points, spent $193 per vote. The next biggest disparity was in Maine, where Democrats spent $272 per vote compared to $172 per vote for Republicans in a race that Democrats also lost.

19. The best bargain in a state that flipped was in Alabama, where Republicans spent just $12 per vote to have former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville oust Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Democrats spent $17 per vote.

20. In Colorado, one of the two states Democrats flipped so far, Republicans did outspend Democrats per vote, $31 to $29, only to have GOP Sen. Cory Gardner lose to former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper by almost 10 points.

21. In all competitive races (excluding both Georgia races), Democrats spent on average $94 per vote, while Republicans spent $60 per vote.
HOUSE:

22. In January, House Democrats will represent 51 percent of all House seats, but just 16 percent of the nation’s land area — the smallest geographical footprint of any majority in modern history.

23. All 13 of the Republicans who have been certified as the winners in Democratic-held districts were women and/or minorities — including three of Cuban descent, two of Korean descent, one African-American and ten women. Of the 46 freshman Republicans entering the House, 18 are women — more than Republicans’ current tally from 13 to 29.

24. The top three most expensive House races of 2020 — in terms of both candidate and outside spending — were California’s 25th District ($37.9 million), New Mexico’s 2nd District ($36.7 million) and Texas’s 22nd District ($34.1 million), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

25. The four largest outside spenders in House races (the DCCC, NRCC, House Majority PAC and Congressional Leadership Fund) spent a combined $442 million, including $196 million in races that were decided by more than five points and $42 million in races decided by more than ten. Meanwhile, there were 10 races Democrats won by less than five points where GOP groups failed to spend more than $500,000. Had Republicans invested in those races, they might have won back the House majority.”
Now that is genuinely scary. Time for a course correction.


Warnock Leads by 7, Ossoff by 5 in New GA Runoff Poll

At Newsweek, Natalie Colarossi reports “Just two weeks ahead of Georgia’s critical Senate runoff races, a new poll shows Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue trailing behind Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.” Colarossi adds,

The survey, conducted by SurveyUSA, shows Warnock leading Loeffler by 7 percentage points among likely voters. Ossoff maintains a 5-point advantage over Perdue….The survey took place between December 16 and 21 and involved 800 respondents, 600 of whom said they were likely to vote in the January contests….According to the new data, Ossoff has widened his lead by 2 points after a SurveyUSA poll conducted three weeks earlier, while Warnock’s lead remains unchanged.

Colarossi speculates that the Democrats’ leads could be attributed to “Republican infighting over President Donald Trump‘s allegations that the election process is “rigged.” After weeks of Trump challenging the results of the presidential election with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, some Georgia conservatives have said they will sit out the Senate runoffs.”  Further,

Among those who identified as “very conservative” in the poll, 55 percent said they are not voting in the runoffs because “the voting process is rigged,” while 7 percent said they are “intentionally boycotting” the runoffs. That number compares with the zero percent of those who identify as either “liberal” or “very liberal,” according to the data.

However, Colarossi notes that “Georgia’s unprecedented double runoffs have generated a record-breaking number of early voters.” The combined 12 point lead of Warnock and Ossoff is the largest reported for the Democrats by a major pollster since the November presidential election.

President Trump has been threatening to revisit Georgia to stump for Republican  incumbents Perdue and Loeffler. But it is unclear whether he helps or hurts their races overall.

Of course, this is only one poll. But the respected FiveThirtyEight website’s poll analysts give SurveyUSA  an “A” rating — the highest rating among 11 pollsters which have conducted surveys for the runoff elections since the November 3rd general election.


Teixeira: The Left’s Assignment, Should They Decide to Accept It

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

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the left will accept this assignment, but I think it is quite clear both what the assignment is and that they should accept it.

The assignment: help Biden succeed. His policy commitments are plenty progressive and it will be a big challenge to make progress on these commitments, even without endless sniping from the left that Biden is not a real progressive and pointless intra-party squabbles. Above all, the Biden administration needs to make rapid progress ending the coronavirus crisis and getting the economy back healthy and into high gear. No progressive dreams will come true until and unless that happens. A mature left would realize that and gladly accept the assignment to help Biden succeed.

Todd Gitlin in USA Today:

“As Donald Trump fades in the rear-view mirror, the all-or-nothing caucus has more urgent concerns. Its idea of the left requires trashing the winner because he was embraced by party elites and, embarrassingly, won primaries against candidates further to the left. Its first mantra is: Moderates will sell you out. Its second: Half a loaf is much worse than no loaf at all, because it will delude the naive masses into believing that things are moving in the right direction….

The sure road to irrelevance under a government that brings together disparate forces is to inflame rage at the moderates more intensely than one mobilizes forces to strengthen “the left wing of the possible,” in Michael Harrington’s memorable phrase.

The unreconciled “we told you so” folks are ever ready to call “Gotcha!” It’s as if the evidence demonstrates (contrary to fact) that progressive congressional candidates are sure to win in moderate distracts. The chorus must always be tuned up, ready to go, to signal to hyper-alert Democrats that their party is, at bottom, nothing more than the neoliberal Tweedledee to Trump’s aspirationally fascist Tweedledum.

What the “we told you so caucus” does not understand is that the whole Democratic Party — moderates as well as the left — shares a stake in helping Biden succeed. Only if he delivers quickly, beginning next month, can progressive politics come to life. If the Democrats win the two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5, the odds for deep reform are even better, though even if Republicans keep control of the Senate, some doors for progressive change will remain open. Shouting insults at Biden is not the way to make the most of the Democrats’ strength. Neither is cuing up the circular firing squad.

Democratic power can only be anchored, over the longer haul, by showing that Democratic government works for a majority. The only way to peel away some of the less fanatical Trump supporters, over time, is to deliver — to put money in their pockets — to demonstrate that Biden policies stand to shore up a big tent that has room for them, too.”

EJ Dionne in the Post:

“Since {Biden’s] gains this year over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote were larger among college graduates and suburbanites than among those without college degrees, he needs to continue his outreach to the less privileged — White but also Latino.

He can do this without breaking faith with the Black voters who gave him decisive majorities. They form a big part of the working class, and would also respond positively to an emphasis on creating well-paying jobs, lifting incomes and, more broadly, themes built around equal dignity.

In her book “The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes,” British writer (and Labour Party political adviser) Claire Ainsley highlights the themes of family, fairness, hard work and decency. They are keys to reducing polarization.

At least some of the voters who stuck with Trump did so because they liked his attacks on globalization, were more worried about the economy than the pandemic and felt ignored by conventional politicians. Biden needs to push the parts of his program (its “buy American” components, for example) that speak directly to these frustrations.

The fights he chooses to pick with Republicans should be on behalf of proposals (a higher minimum wage, affordable health insurance, more family-friendly workplaces, political reform to reduce big money’s role in politics) that make clear who is on the side of the forgotten…..

The larger lesson is that culture wars are at the heart of our polarization. If they become ferocious, they will block Biden’s efforts to broaden his reach. As a religious person, Biden — simply by virtue of who he is — can reduce levels of mistrust bred by the growing secular/religious divide, and he needs to handle church/state questions with care. He has a moral obligation to be uncompromising on issues of racial justice, but advocates of change need to find arguments (and, yes, slogans) that appeal across existing lines of division.

And nothing unites like success (one reason Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” slogan was so effective), so ending the pandemic and restoring the economy should be the Democrats’ lodestar.”

So, pretty simple right? Culture wars, bad; helping Biden succeed, good. Time for the left to step up and do what needs to be done.


Teixeira: Jon Tester Channels Woody Allen

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

Allen once said, “80 percent of success is showing up”. Want to win in rural areas? Try showing up, says Jon Tester. From an interview in the Times:

“I think showing up is a fundamental rule of politics, and I don’t know that we showed up. Because of Covid, we didn’t show up on the campaign trail. And in a state like Montana, you have to give people a reason to vote for you or they’ll vote Republican — they’ll default to Republican. And I think that hurt us greatly in 2020. The Republicans, for the most part, didn’t see the pandemic as near as a threat to health as some of the Democrats did.”

On going on the offensive in rural America:

“Democrats can really do some positive things in rural America just by talking about infrastructure and what they’re doing for infrastructure, particularly in the area of broadband. And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education. That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.”
On connecting with rural voters:

“I can go into the list of things that might be insane about this president, but the truth is that rural people connect more with a millionaire from New York City than they do with the Democrats that are in national positions.

So that tells me our message is really, really flawed, because I certainly don’t see it that way.

We do not have a — what do I want to say — a well-designed way to get our message out utilizing our entire caucus. So we need to do more of that. You cannot have Chuck Schumer talking rural issues to rural people; it ain’t gonna sell.”

Why Obama did relatively well in rural America:

“You know where Barack Obama spent Fourth of July in 2008?

Butte, Mont. He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up.

What has happened in Montana as far as losing Max Baucus’s seat, and in North Dakota and in South Dakota, I think speaks to the fact that we’re not speaking to rural America. And look, Steve Bullock lost [this year’s Senate race in Montana] for a number of reasons. One was they nationalized it. They totally nationalized his race. They tried to do it to me, too. What I had that Steve didn’t have was there wasn’t a damn pandemic, and I could go out. And we did, man. We showed people that I was not A.O.C., for Christ’s sake.”

Tester’s recommendation for a bumper sticker Democratic slogan: “Opportunity for everyone”

Not bad.


It’s On in GA

In her article, “Georgia Senate Runoffs: More Voters Turn Out For First Day Of Early Voting Than For General Election” Jemima McEvoy writes at Forbes:

Nearly 169,000 Georgians cast ballots on Monday, the first day of early voting in the state’s Senate runoff elections—a massive number that surpasses even that of the general election’s early voting kickoff and demonstrates the wave of enthusiasm for a pair of races that will determine the makeup of the Senate.

According to data cited by voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who has been leading the Democratic party’s efforts to rally support in Georgia, 168,293 state residents voted on Monday, which is nearly 30,000 more than the number of votes cast on the first day of day of early voting in the November general election (140,000)….Over the weekend, Abrams told CNN that the Democratic party is confident in its ability to win the two runoff elections, having already seen massive interest in absentee ballots and a surge in enthusiasm from voters whose demographics signal enthusiasm for Democratic candidates.

However, McEvoy adds, “Taking into account the 314,000 Georgians who have already cast their ballots by mail, this means over 480,000 of the state’s 10.6 million residents have voted in the Senate runoffs to date….Overall, the general election had still enticed 24% more voters by this point for a total of 633,990 votes due to the whopping 484,000 ballots sent by mail….there is no way to tell which party has cast more early votes.”

McEvoy notes that “1.2 million. That’s the number of Georgians who have requested absentee ballots for the Senate runoffs, according to Abrams….“Of that 1.2 million, 85,000 are from voters who did not vote in the general election and they are disproportionately between the ages of 18 and 29 and disproportionately people of color,” said Abrams, adding: “Democrats are prepared to win this election because this is the first runoff where we have the level of investment and engagement that it takes to win.” Further,

An average of polls on the Georgia runoffs compiled by data-focused news site FiveThirtyEight put the parties nearly neck-and-neck in both races. Ossoff leads Purdue by 1 point, while Warnock has a slightly larger lead of 1.6 over Loeffler, though pollsters warn against putting too much stock in these limited measures of public opinion. President Trump’s loss in the state, flipping Georgia blue for the first time since 1992, has also added a new level of intensity to the runoffs, with both sides wondering whether the general election represented a rejection of the Republican party—or of Trump. Continuing to insist voter fraud led to a rigged election, Trump and his allies have been walking a potentially damaging line, recently attempting to leverage his fanbase in the state to gain institutional support for his attempts to overturn the election’s results. Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn advised the GOP to focus on the general election over the Senate runoffs, while Trump appeared to threaten his own support for the Republican candidates on Monday, warning on Twitter that if Georgia’s Republican governor doesn’t help him remedy the election’s results it will be a “bad day” for Loeffler and Purdue. It “could have been easy, but now we have to do it the hard way,” wrote Trump.

The edge that the Democratic candidates get from Georgia GOP divisions could be offset by an energetic turnout of conservative evangelicals. But at least it appears that voter enthusiasm among Georgia Democrats and party unity is solidly on track. No doubt Mitch McConnell is calling in all his credits with contributors and his political connections. But, while there were deep suspicions regarding the integrity of the vote count in the 2018 Governor’s race in Georgia, the state’s Republican leaders know that the Biden Administration DOJ and other law enforcement agencies will not be giving any free rides for any ballot-counting or voter suppression violations in the January 5th runoff.


Teixeira: What Do You Mean “We,” Progressive Activists?

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

Progressive activists often seem unaware of how far some of their core assumptions and inclinations are from average Americans, including among disadvantaged groups like blacks and Hispanics in whose name they often presume to speak. This can be seen in the new release from the More in Common group, who term their new series their American Fabric series, following on from their Hidden Tribes series.

The new study, as their did previous ones, divides the American population into groups using on an underlying factor analysis of core beliefs. One of their groups–literally termed “progressive activists”–is 8 percent of the population and is described as: “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

They don’t provide a detailed demographic breakdown of this or other groups (which is a mistake in my opinion) but a previous study provided more detail on the progressive activist group as they compare to overall averages.

–More than twice as likely to list politics as a hobby – 73% V. 35%
– Three times more likely to say that people’s outcomes are the result of “luck and circumstance” – 75% V. 25%
– Less likely to believe the world is becoming a “more and more dangerous place” – 19% V. 38%
– More than twice as likely to say that they never pray – 50% V. 19%
– Almost three times more likely to be “ashamed to be an American” – 69% V. 24%
– More likely to say they are proud of their political ideology – 63% V. 46%
– Eleven percent more likely to be white – 80% V. 69%
– Seven percent more likely to be between ages 18 and 29 – 28% V. 21%
– Twice as likely to have completed college – 59% V. 29%

Hmm. Sounds like a pretty familiar type right? The new report shows, among other things, how far progressive activists’ attitude toward their own country departs from not just from that of average Americans but from average black and Hispanic Americans as well. Black and Hispanic Americans are highly likely to be proud to be Americans and highly likely to say they would still choose to live in America if they could choose to live anywhere in the world. On both questions, progressive activists are far, far less likely to express these sentiments (see charts below).

I think these differences are not just large but significant. They underscore the extent to which cosmopolitan, highly educated, overwhelmingly white progressives have detached themselves from the rest of the country. No wonder the average voter doesn’t want to hang around with them.


Ari Berman: Why Dems Have a Good Chance to Win GA Runoffs

At Mother Jones, Ari Berman explains why “Runoff Elections in Georgia Are Disasters for Democrats. Here’s Why This Time Is Different. Organizing against voter suppression and high turnout in November are giving Democrats hope“:

Democrats have believed for some time that a rapidly diversifying electorate would allow them to be competitive in Georgia, but repeated voter suppression efforts had kept that electorate from fully forming. Now, two years of determined organizing against voter suppression created the conditions for Joe Biden to carry the state by just under 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate in 28 years to win Georgia.

“There were still long lines, there were still problems with absentee balloting,” says Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of the voting rights group Fair Fight Action and Abrams’ campaign manager in 2018. “But the collective work on litigation, advocacy, voter education, voter suppression mitigation that we and so many allies did really ensured that there was a multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition that could come out to support Joe Biden.”

Berman notes, further:

The electorate in 2020 was the one Abrams envisioned in 2018. People of color made up nearly 40 percent of all voters, and Biden won roughly 70 percent of their votes. He improved on [Democratic candidate for governor Stacy] Abrams’ margin in eight counties in metro Atlanta, building a remarkably diverse coalition of new voters, young voters, people of color, and moderate white suburbanites. According to an analysis by the Democratic data firm Target Smart, Asian American turnout increased by 91 percent from 2016 to 2020, Latino turnout by 72 percent, and Black turnout by 20 percent, while white turnout grew by just 16 percent.

Between 2016 and 2020, 1 million new voters were registered through Georgia’s system of automatic voter registration at motor vehicle offices and registration drives by grassroots groups. Two-thirds of them were people of color. Amazingly, the number of eligible but unregistered Georgians fell from 22 percent in 2016 to just 2 percent in 2020.

“In addition to high-profile organizing work by Abrams and her allies,” Berman writes, “many restrictive voting rules that led to disenfranchisement in 2018 were also reformed through litigation and advocacy.” For example:

In 2020, it was harder for election officials to throw out mail ballots for mismatched signatures, and voters had a chance to fix problems with their ballots after Election Day. In 2018, Black and Latino voters were more likely than white voters to have their mail ballots rejected, and young voters were more likely than older voters. The overall rejection rate for mail ballots fell from 3.4 percent in 2018 to just .2 percent in November.

Counties in metro Atlanta processed absentee ballots more quickly and made their designs less confusing. When the secretary of state removed 300,000 voters who he claimed had died or moved from the rolls in December 2019, Fair Fight sued and reinstated 22,000 voters who were still eligible to vote. A law mandating that early voting locations be in government buildings was repealed, allowing the Atlanta Hawks’ arena to become a massive polling place in downtown Atlanta.

Berman notes that “groups like Fair Fight contacted 1 million voters a week urging them to make a plan to vote early, either in person or by mail. “When I would go to the polls, I would hear, ‘We’re not going to let them steal this one,’” says [Black Voters matter Founder Latosha] Brown. “That’s why I think you had so many people vote early.” Eighty percent of Georgians voted early, leading to many fewer problems on Election Day. It was by no means perfect—there were 11-hour lines on the first day of early voting in Atlanta—but people stood in line to make sure their votes were counted.”

Looking toward January 5th, “A million mail-in ballots have been requested for the runoff, an impressive number considering that 1.3 million people voted by mail in November. “I don’t think we’ll approach the numbers for the general, but I do think we’ll exceed turnout rates for any runoff we’ve seen in recent Georgia history,” [New Georgia Project Director Nse] Ufot says.”

Perhaps the biggest threat to Democratic hopes for the January 5th run-off is the closing of polling places in large counties like Cobb, ostensibly because of inadequate trained staff for the polls. That’s why the Georgia activists are emphasizing early voting by mail, which is on track to set a runoff record.