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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: The Crazy Catches Up With the Democrats

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

It’s starting to dawn on more and more Democrats that the crazy in some parts of the party really is having a dire effect on the party’s brand. It’s not just a nuisance, it’s an honest to god problem that can’t be batted away by referring to Fox News talking points and January 6th.

This week of course three ultrawoke members were recalled from the San Francisco school board by absolutely crushing margins. When something like his happens In a place like San Francisco, you know a backlash is afoot.

Tyler Cowen in his Bloomberg column asserts that this result makes it a reasonable time to say wokeism has now peaked and will be receding. Maybe. But Cowen rightfully points out that receding doesn’t mean they will disappear anytime soon since they have burrowed into academia, cultural institutions HR departments, foundations, nonprofits and the like. They’ve got jobs and power and that doesn’t disappear so easily.

“The turning point for the fortunes of the woke may be this week’s school board election in San Francisco, where three members were recalled by a margin of more than 70%. Voters were upset that the school board spent time trying to rename some schools in a more politically correct manner, rather than focusing on reopening all the schools. There was also considerable opposition to the board’s introduction of a lottery admissions system for a prestigious high school, in lieu of the previous use of grades and exam scores….

Another trend is how relatively few immigrants are woke. Latinos in particular seem more open to the Republican Party, or at least don’t seem to have strong partisan attachments. More generally, immigrant political views are more diverse than many people think, even within the Democratic Party….

Wokeism is likely to evolve into a subculture that is highly educated, highly White and fairly feminine. That is still a large mass of people, but not enough to run the country or all its major institutions. In the San Francisco school board recall, for instance, the role of Asian Americans was especially prominent….

The woke also are likely to achieve an even greater hold over American universities. Due to the tenure system, personnel turnover is low, and currently newer and younger faculty are more left-wing than are older faculty, including in my field of economics. The simple march of retirements is going to make universities even more left-wing — and even more out of touch with mainstream America.”

Also this week the DCCC released a memo and data showing just how potent GOP attacks, building on the crazy, are likely to be this cycle.

“In swing districts, 64% of voters agreed with the statement that “Democrats in Congress support defunding the police and taking more cops off of the street.” The internal poll found that 80% of self-defined swing voters in competitive districts agreed with the same statement. Politico previously reported on the DCCC warning about the effectiveness of what they refer to as conservative “culture war attacks.”

Sixty-two percent of voters in contested districts agreed with the statement, “Democrats in Congress have created a border crisis that allows illegal immigrants to enter the country without repercussions and grants them tax-payer funded benefits once here.” Seventy-eight percent of swing voters in those districts agreed.

Sixty-one percent of swing district voters agreed with the statements, “Democrats in Congress are spending money out of control,” and, “Democrats are teaching kids as young as five Critical Race Theory, which teaches that America is a racist country and that white people are racist.” And 59% agreed with the statement, “Democrats are too focused on pursuing an agenda that divides us and judging those who don’t see things their way.”

Remember Democrats, only *you* can stop the crazy. If not you, who? If not now, when? Time to say enough is enough.”

Skelley: Latino Drift to GOP Real, But Overstated

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley writes:

In the 2020 election, the rightward shift among Latino voters raised eyebrows. Post-election surveys have disagreed about the exact split in the Latino vote, but it appears around 3 in 5 (or slightly more) voted for President Biden over then-President Donald Trump. Yet many of those same surveys as well as precinct-level analysis of the 2020 vote suggest that, compared with his performance in 2016, Trump made gains among Latinos — and in some places, quite sizable ones. Going forward, such swings among Latinos — the largest ethnic or racial minority group in the country— could affect each party’s chance of carrying important states like Arizona, Florida and Texas while also putting Democratic-leaning turf in play for the GOP.

Yet for all the talk about Republicans making serious inroads with Latino voters, new data from Gallup suggests that Latinos’ lurch toward the GOP could be overstated, at least when it comes to how they identify with the two major parties. In Gallup’s survey data for 2021, the pollster found that 56 percent of Hispanic Americans identified as Democrats or as independents who leaned toward the Democratic Party, while 26 percent identified as Republican or as leaning toward the GOP. Those figures represent very little change from what Gallup found in 2020 and, as the chart below shows, largely fall in line with Hispanic party-identification data over the past decade.

Skelley explains further,

And among Latinos, ties to the two parties may be particularly weak because they aren’t as likely as other Americans to form a strong partisan identity at a young age. For starters, about one-third of Latinos weren’t born in the U.S., which means many haven’t developed a strong allegiance to either party. As a result, many first-generation Latinos haven’t instilled loyalty to either party in their children, which is often how younger voters in the U.S. form their partisan identities.1 It’s no surprise then that younger Latinos, in particular, hold only weak affinities for the two major parties or identify as independent, as they often have to find their own way politically….These looser partisan attachments mean that a sizable bloc of the Latino electorate is persuadable.

Skelley notes that there is evidence that some of the Latino drift toward Trump can be attributed to younger Latino voters, but “Biden’s approval rating has fallen especially hard among Latinos, and like other Americans, Latinos are particularly worried about issues like the economy, COVID-19 and crime, which could benefit Republicans, especially if immigration, an issue that has benefited Democrats among Latinos, remains mostly sidelined.”

Skelley concludes,

“Still, at this point it seems more likely than not that Latino voters will continue to prefer Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. However, given the 2020 election results, the prominent issues that voters are worried about and Biden’s standing with the public, there’s plenty of reason to think that Republicans can further trim Democrats’ lead among Latino voters in 2022 — even if Democrats retain a sizable party-ID advantage among all Latinos.”

In close elections, that could be decisive.

Edsall: How ‘Social Capital’ Influences Political Choices

In his New York Times column, “There’s a Reason Trump Loves the Truckers,” Thomas B. Edsall shares some revealing research on how ‘social capital’ influces political choices, and notes Trump’s predictable response:

“We want those great Canadian truckers to know that we are with them all the way,” Trump told rally-goers in Conroe, Texas on Jan. 29….I see they have Trump signs all over the place and I’m proud that they do,” he added.

Edsall notes that in “The Rise of Populism and the Revenge of the Places,” [Andres] Rodríguez-Pose argued:

Populism is not the result of persistent poverty. Places that have been chronically poor are not the ones rebelling.” Instead, he continued, “the rise of populism is a tale of how the long-term decline of formerly prosperous places, disadvantaged by processes that have rendered them exposed and almost expendable, has triggered frustration and anger. In turn, voters in these so-called ‘places that don’t matter’ have sought their revenge at the ballot box….Social capital in the U.S. has been declining for a long time. Associationism and the feeling of community are no longer what they used to be and this has been documented many times. What my co-authors and I are saying is that in those places (counties) where social capital has declined less, long-term demographic and employment decline triggered a switch to Donald Trump. These communities have said “enough is enough” of a system that they feel bypasses them and voted for an anti-system candidate, who is willing to shake the foundations of the system.

Put another way, and regardless of Trump’s future prospects, right-wing populism’s primary constituency is the more recently dispossessed. As Edsall explains, “Translated to the present, in economic and culturally besieged communities, the remnants of social capital have been crucial to the mobilization of men and women — mostly men — who chanted “You will not replace us” and “blood and soil” in Charlottesville, who shot bear spray at police officers on Jan. 6 and who brought Ottawa to its knees for more than two weeks.”

Citing other research, Edsall writes that “cultural conflict and regional economic discrepancies also generate powerful political momentum for those seeking to build a “coalition of resentment.” Since the 2016 election of Trump, the Republican Party has focused on that just that kind of Election Day alliance.” Further,

Shannon M. Monnat and David L. Brown, sociologists at Syracuse and Cornell, have analyzed the economic and demographic characteristics of counties that sharply increased their vote for Trump in 2016 compared with their support for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In their October 2017 paper “More than a rural revolt: Landscapes of despair and the 2016 Presidential election,” Monnat and Brown found that “Trump performed better in counties with more economic distress, worse health, higher drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates, lower educational attainment, and higher marital separation/divorce rates.”

Trump’s populist message, Monnat and Brown write in their conclusion,

may have been attractive to many long-term Democratic voters in these places who felt abandoned by a Democratic Party that has failed to articulate a strong pro-working class message, whose agendas often emphasize policies and programs to help the poor at what seems like the expense of the working-class, and who evidently believed it did not have to work very hard to earn votes from behind the “big blue wall.”

Edsall notes that “Regardless of the sources of discontent and regardless of the characteristic of those leading the assault on the liberal democratic state, there is no question that the trucker’s insurgency in Canada is catching fire abroad — currently in France, Britain, Belgium, New Zealand and Australia.”

Also, as Edsall observes, “Non-college whites in the United States, like the protesting truckers in Canada, continue to face grim prospects, subordinated by meritocratic competition that rewards what they lack: advanced education and top scores on aptitude tests — accomplishments that feed the resource allocation, the status contests and the employment hierarchies that dominate contemporary life and leave those who cannot prevail out in the cold.”

No one should be surprised if the protests spring up inside the U.S. leading up to the midterm elections. As Edsall concludes, “As long as these voters remain on a downward trajectory, they will continue to be a disruptive force, not only in the political arena but in society at large.”

Teixeira: The Left Is Blowing Its Big Opportunity

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

For forty years or so the left has been preaching against neoliberalism—the view that capitalism and markets should mostly be left alone to generate prosperity with only modest regulation and a frugal welfare state. For forty years the left has polemicized against this economic model, frequently despairing that they could ever get through to ordinary voters, particularly working class voters, who, the left said, were duped by political elites who either promoted this model or were afraid to challenge it.

Well a funny thing happened in the wake of the Great Recession, a worldwide pandemic and persistent, maddening economic inequality: ordinary voters, including working class voters, are sick of neoliberalism. They’ve had it and they’re ready for something different.

The answer to the left’s prayers right? The opportunity—finally!—to push the American economic model in their preferred direction by building up the mass support the left has always lacked.

A great opportunity, yes, and also an opportunity that’s being impressively blown by today’s left and, in the process, is taking the Democratic party down with them. At the very moment when neoliberalism has been comprehensively discredited, the left has become more and more associated with unpopular sociocultural issues and less and less with solving the problems of working class people. This has branded the left as a movement out of touch with the concerns and language of ordinary voters—a movement that is using its increased influence within the Democratic party to promote pet causes and interfere with effective governance. This is undermining the Democrats’ ability to garner mass support for the very economic transition the left has been promoting for forty years.

How did this sorry state of affairs arise? This is best illustrated by looking at the area of culture and language where the left’s estrangement from ordinary voters is most obvious and which has increasingly defined the left’s brand—and by extension the Democratic party’s.

The culture of the left has evolved and not in a good way. It is now thoroughly out of touch with its working class roots and completely dominated by college-educated professionals, typically in big metropolitan areas and university towns and typically younger. These are the people that fill the ranks of the media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations and the infrastructure of the Democratic party. They speak their own language and highlight the issues that most animate their commitments to ‘social justice”.

These commitments are increasingly driven by what is now referred to as identity politics. This form of politics originated in the 1960s movements that sought to eliminate discrimination against and establish equal treatment and access for women and for racial and sexual minorities. In evolving to the present day, the focus has mutated into an attempt to impose a worldview that emphasizes multiple, intersecting levels of oppression (“intersectionality”) based on group identification. In place of promoting universal rights and principles—the traditional remit of the left–advocates now police others on the left to uncritically embrace this intersectional approach, insist on an arcane vocabulary for speaking about these purportedly oppressed groups, and prohibit discourse based on logic and evidence to evaluate the assertions of those who claim to speak on the groups’ behalf.

Is America really a “white supremacist” societyWhat does “structural racism” even mean and does it explain all the socioeconomic problems of nonwhites? Is anyone who raises questions about immigration levels a racist? Are personal pronouns necessary and something the left should seek to popularize? Are transwomen exactly the same as biological women and are those who question such a claim simply “haters” who should be expunged from the left coalition (as has been advocated in the UK)? This list could go on. What ties the questions together is that they are closely associated with practitioners of identity politics or adherents of the intersectional approach, who deem them not open to debate with the usual tools of logic and evidence. Politically derived answers are simply to be embraced by the left in the interest of “social justice.”

The left has paid a considerable price for its increasingly strong linkage to militant identity politics, which brands it as focused on, or at least distracted by, issues of little relevance to most voters’ lives. Worse, the focus has led many working-class voters to believe that, unless they subscribe to this emerging worldview and are willing to speak its language, they will be condemned as reactionary, intolerant, and racist by those who purport to represent their interests. To some extent these voters are right: They really are looked down upon by the dominant elements of the left—typically younger, well-educated, and metropolitan—who embrace identity politics and the intersectional approach. This has contributed to the emerging rupture in the Democratic Party’s coalition along lines of education and region.

This rupture was solidified by the election of Donald Trump in 2016. By far the dominant interpretation of white working class support for Trump on the left was that these voters were racist and xenophobic, full stop. They just didn’t like the loss of status and privilege allegedly attendant upon being white as America evolved to a more multicultural, multiracial democracy. This was odd since the left has just spent the last many decades sternly denouncing neoliberalism and how it was ruining the lives and communities of all working people. But that counted for little as the left digested the Trump victory and girded for battle as “The Resistance”.

The Trump years further deepened the identity politics commitments of the left, particularly in the wake of the nationwide movement protesting the murder of George Floyd. This left its stamp on the 2020 edition of the Democratic party, notwithstanding their old school standard-bearer, Joe Biden. Not surprisingly Biden did not do much better than recent Democrats among the white working class. But, especially shocking to those on the left, the “racial reckoning” and four years of Donald Trump, did not produce enhanced support for Democrats among nonwhites, but rather significant erosion in that support, particularly among working class nonwhites.

I do not see many signs that the processing of these electoral signals has led the left back toward a more universalist approach. In fact quite the opposite seems to have happened. The left is holding ever more tenaciously onto policies and rhetoric linked to identity politics.

Biden and leading Democrats have sought to defuse controversies around this brand of politics by characterizing the controversies as Republican attempts to distract voters from Democrats’ more popular policies. This is certainly better than directly endorsing the highly unpopular rhetoric and practices of the left in areas like crime, immigration, ideological “anti-racism,” and language policing. But, because it falls short of direct criticism and because the Biden administration itself has drenched many of its own initiatives in rhetoric of “equity,” “systemic racism,” and other buzzwords central to identity politics, the Democratic party has not escaped association with that approach’s more unpopular aspects.

As a result, the party’s—or, at least, Biden’s—attempt to rebrand Democrats as a unifying party speaking for Americans across divisions of race and class appears to have failed. Voters are not sure Democrats can look beyond identity politics to ensure public safety, secure borders, high quality, non-ideological education, and economic progress for all Americans. A universalist message is simply not getting through.

Instead, the Democrats find themselves weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curricula and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy, and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue. With this baggage, rebranding is impossible, since decisive action that might lead to such a rebranding is immediately crippled by a torrent of criticism or simply never proposed.

In short, Democrats are stuck. The left will not allow the party to escape the gravitational field of identity politics and the party’s inability to do so means that their brand cannot sustain a durable majority. Indeed, there are signs that Democrats are experiencing more and more slippage among working class voters of all races. For a left of center party, that is catastrophic—not just for 2022, but far beyond.

There is a way forward and it involves embracing the core views and values of ordinary voters, particularly ordinary working class voters. Logically, the left should be promoting this approach since realistically a transition away from neoliberalism—the economic program fervently advocated by the left for forty years—will take years and a far broader coalition than the Democrats currently have.

Below I present a list of such core views and values, cast in terms that would be congenial to ordinary working class voters but nevertheless reflect the liberal commitments of the Democratic party. Democratic politicians, including those on the left, should be able to put forward these liberal-but-not-radical statements without feeling embarrassed or afraid they will get attacked by their own side.

  • Equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not.
  • America is not perfect but it is good to be patriotic and proud of the country.
  • Discrimination and racism are bad but they are not the cause of all disparities in American society.
  • No one is completely without bias but calling all white people racists who benefit from white privilege and American society a white supremacist society is not right or fair.
  • America benefits from the presence of immigrants and no immigrant, even if illegal, should be mistreated. But border security is still important, as is an enforceable system that fairly decides who can enter the country.
  • Police misconduct and brutality against people of any race is wrong and we need to reform police conduct and recruitment. But crime is a real problem so more and better policing is needed for public safety. That cannot be provided by “defunding the police”.
  • There are underlying differences between men and women but discrimination on the basis of gender is wrong.
  • There are basically two genders but people who want to live as a gender different from their biological sex should have that right and not be discriminated against. However, there are issues around child consent to transitioning and participation in women’s sports that are complicated and not settled.
  • Racial achievement gaps are bad and we should seek to close them. However, they are not due just to racism and standards of high achievement should be maintained for people of all races.
  • Language policing has gone too far; by and large, people should be able to express their views without fear of sanction by employer, school, institution or government. Good faith should be assumed, not bad faith.

Movement in this direction should start at the top with President Joe Biden. As the Financial Times noted in a recent editorial taking off from Bill Maher’s criticisms of the American left:

A president cannot and should not micromanage local policing and schooling, much less the private decisions of “woke” business. What he can do is state his own liberal-but-not-radical position in the cultural struggles of the day, as did former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at various times.

Maher is not the only American who subscribes to liberalism in its old sense while balking at group rights, equivocation over crime (many of whose victims are poor minorities) and the minefield of modern speech. It is not as though Biden need turn into J Edgar Hoover to win these voters over. And if and when they are reassured, the Republicans’ own capacity for cultural over-reach, perhaps in the form of judicial rulings on abortion and other issues this year, will stand out.

At the moment, Biden is relying on his bona fides to get him through. He has spent much of his career at the conservative end of his party. He is a Catholic who came of age before the Permissive Society of the 1960s. If anything, the worry upon his third bid for the White House was that the author of hardline criminal justice laws was too draconian and old-fashioned for modern America.

Perhaps to compensate for that past, however, he has been nervous to shout down the strident voices to his left. He is caught between strict liberals and the kind of progressives for whom liberalism is a polite cover for all kinds of structural inequities. Refusing to pick a side is a good way to maintain the uneasy peace within the Democratic party. Unfortunately, it is also a good way of arousing the mistrust of large parts of the country.

It is time for Joe Biden to pick a side. The left is dragging his party and Presidency down. And in the process the left is blowing its big opportunity to move American society away from the neoliberalism they’ve been criticizing for forty years. In that sense, Biden, by taking a side, would be doing the left a favor and saving them from themselves. That is, if they still believe in replacing neoliberalism.

Ballotpedia’s Senate Race Battleground

From Ballotpedia’s report on “Battleground States” U.S. Senate races:

Battleground states

The following eight battleground states were rated as battlegrounds by Inside Elections as of October 2021 and as either a toss-up, lean, or likely Democratic or Republican state by Cook Political Report and/or Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Click here for more information about Senate race ratings.


See also: United States Senate election in Arizona, 2022

The previous two Senate elections—held in 2018 and 2020—were both decided by 2.4 percentage points. In 2020, Mark Kelly (D) defeated incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R) in a special election[10], 51.2% to 48.8%. In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally, 50.0% to 47.6%.

The two most recent presidential elections in Arizona were similarly close. Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 0.3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 3.6 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Democratic.[11]


See also: United States Senate election in Florida, 2022

In 2018, Rick Scott (R) defeated incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by 0.2 percentage points in the Senate race for Florida. In 2016, incumbent Marco Rubio won re-election by a margin of 7.7 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections in Florida were both decided by less than 4 percentage points. Incumbent President Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) by 3.3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 1.2 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Republican.[11]


See also: United States Senate election in Georgia, 2022

The two Senate elections held in Georgia in 2020—with runoffs taking place in January 2021—were both decided by 2 percentage points or fewer. Jon Ossoff (D) defeated incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) by 1.2 percentage points, 50.6% to 49.4%. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) in a special election by 2 percentage points, 51.0% to 49.0%. In 2016, incumbent Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) won re-election by a margin of 13.8 percentage points.

Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 0.2 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 5.2 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Democratic.[11]


See also: United States Senate election in Nevada, 2022

The two preceding Senate elections were both decided by 5 percentage points or fewer. In 2018, Jacky Rosen defeated incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) by 5 percentage points. In 2016, incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Joe Heck (R) by 2.4 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections in Nevada were similarly close. Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 2.4 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Hillary Clinton (D) defeated Trump in the 2016 presidential election by 2.4 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Democratic.[11]

New Hampshire

See also: United States Senate election in New Hampshire, 2022

The two preceding Senate elections were split in competitiveness. In 2020, Incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D) won re-election against Bryant Messner (R) by a margin of 15.6 percentage points. In 2016, Maggie Hassan (D) defeated incumbent Kelly Ayotte by 0.1 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections in Nevada were similarly split. Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 7.3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Hillary Clinton (D) defeated Trump in the 2016 presidential election by 0.3 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Democratic.[11]

North Carolina

See also: United States Senate election in North Carolina, 2022

Incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) is not seeking re-election, making this an open seat race. In 2020, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis defeated Cal Cunningham (D) by 1.8 percentage points. In 2016, Burr won re-eelction by 5.7 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections in North Carolina were both decided by less than 4 percentage points. Incumbent President Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) by 1.3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 3.6 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Republican.[11]


See also: United States Senate election in Pennsylvania, 2022

Incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is not seeking re-election, making this an open seat race. In 2018, incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D) defeated Lou Barletta (R) by 13.1 percentage points. In 2016, Toomey won re-election against Katie McGinty (D) by 1.5 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections were both decided by less than 2 percentage points. Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 1.2 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 0.7 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Republican.[11]


See also: United States Senate election in Wisconsin, 2022

In 2016, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) won re-election against Russ Feingold (D) by 3.4 percentage points. In 2018, incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin defeated Leah Vukmir (R) by 10.8 percentage points.

The two most recent presidential elections were both decided by less than 1 percentage point. Joe Biden (D) defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 0.7 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election by 0.7 percentage points.

At the start of the 2022 election cycle, Inside Elections rated this state Battleground Republican.[11]

Click on each state link for more detailed information. Ballotpedia also has a dynamic table that compares U.S. Senate race ratings, updated every five minutes, from The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections.

Abramowitz: Voter Suppression Probably Won’t Work in Midterms

Alan I. Abramowitz explains “Why Voter Suppression Probably Won’t Work” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

“Former President Trump and his political allies continue to push baseless allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election more than a year after Joe Biden’s inauguration. Largely in response to those allegations, Republican state legislatures around the country have enacted dozens of laws intended to tighten identification requirements, limit access to absentee voting, reduce the time period for early in-person voting, and limit the use of drop boxes for absentee voting. Democrats have responded to these new laws by proposing legislation in Congress to override these laws but have failed to pass new voting rights laws due to unified Republican opposition and the unwillingness of 2 Democratic senators to modify the filibuster rule in that chamber.

An important question raised by both these new laws and Democratic efforts to override them is just how effective such voter suppression laws would be in reducing voter turnout among Democratic-leaning voter groups. In an earlier article in the Crystal Ball, I examined the impact of expanded absentee voting on the 2020 election. I concluded that increased use of absentee voting had only a small impact on turnout and no effect at all on the Democratic margin in the 2020 presidential election. In this article, I expand my focus to look at the effects of other voting procedures that Republicans have targeted, including increased availability of early in-person voting, use of drop boxes for absentee voting, and stricter identification requirements for absentee and in-person.[1]

The results reinforce the findings of my previous research. These voting rules had only minor effects on turnout and no effect at all on the Democratic margin in the presidential election.”

Analysing data from the 2016 and 2020 elections, Abramowitz notes further,

Turnout of eligible voters increased in every state and the District of Columbia between 2016 and 2020, with an average increase of just over 7 percentage points. The turnout of roughly 2/3rds of eligible voters in 2020 was the highest in any presidential election in over a century. The percentage of voters casting their ballots before Election Day also increased dramatically as many states adopted policies to encourage both early in-person voting and mail or absentee voting in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, there was considerable variability in the policies adopted by the states regarding both early in-person and absentee voting as well as the use of drop boxes and voter ID requirements.

Abramowitz highlights two voting reforms that did have a beneficial effect on voter turnout:

“However, after controlling for 2016 turnout, the data show that states that mailed absentee ballots directly to voters had a significantly higher turnout in 2020 than other states. Similarly, states that allowed the use of drop boxes for absentee voting had significantly higher turnout than those that required voters to put their absentee ballots in the mail. Finally, early in-person voting had a small negative impact on turnout but this effect was not statistically significant….It should be emphasized that although some of these effects on turnout are statistically significant, all of them are quite small — no greater than 2 or 3 percentage points.”

Who turns out to vote in state and congressional districts will shape the outcome of the midterm elections, and the incumbent President’s party usually loses seats. Here and there, however, Democrats can take advantage of divisions in state and local Republican groups. In the 2020-21 U.S. Senate elections in Georgia, for example, the GOP was damaged by internecine bickering amplified by Trump in combination with run-off rules that helped Democrats. In the runoff elections of January 5th, 2021, “Both elections saw significant turnout by Black voters, who overwhelmingly support Democrats. Just 8% fewer Black voters turned out for the runoffs, compared with an 11% decline among white voters,” according to according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were elected to the U.S. Senate by margins of 1.2 percent and 2.0 percent respectively.

In his conclusion, Abramowitz writes that “efforts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to suppress turnout by Democratic-leaning voter groups by imposing restrictions on absentee voting, early in-person voting, and use of drop boxes or by requiring that voters present photo identification in order to vote are unlikely to bear fruit. Such efforts could even backfire by angering voters who are the targets of these efforts and by causing left-leaning voting rights groups to increase their voter registration and GOTV efforts.”

Teixeira: Biden Could Learn a Lot from Eric Adams. Is He?

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

Well, I see a bit of improvement (link below), but I don’t think he’s there yet. My latest at The Liberal Patriot:

“It’s been widely noted that Democrats’ biggest problem is voters’ thirst for a return to normalcy which they don’t believe that Democrats have delivered. The biggest problems here are the economy and the covid pandemic neither of which have returned to normal in voters’ eyes.

That is certainly what Democrats should be concentrating on most.

But there are other important aspects of American society where normality still seems far away and provide additional headwinds for Democrats as they approach the 2022 elections. One such area is rising violent crime where voters are quite dissatisfied with Democrats’ performance. According to a recent NBC poll, Republicans are favored over Democrats on the crime issue by 22 points. In a December Ipsos/ABC poll, Biden’s approval rating on crime was a dismal 36 percent with 61 percent disapproving. And just 11 percent in a January Pew poll said they were very confident that Biden can “effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues”.

Joe Biden is visiting New York City and Eric Adams this Thursday. He could learn a few things from Adams. To begin with, Biden could stop paying attention to the voices within his party that urge him not to talk tough and be tough on crime. Adams knows that those voices do not represent “normie voters”, especially working class normie voters, especially black, Hispanic and other nonwhite working class normie voters. So Adams has not been afraid to put public safety front and center in his political appeals and call out affluent professionals who think nonwhite and working class communities can do with less policing. He believes that this is what his constituencies want.”

Read the rest at TLP!

Politico Playbook covered the current terrain well:

“President JOE BIDEN travels to New York City today for a pair of events on crime policy with Mayor ERIC ADAMS. Two years ago, if Democrats knew their next president would be meeting with an ex-cop mayor of New York at the NYPD’s Manhattan headquarters to discuss “historic levels of funding for cities and states to put more cops on the beat,” it would have been a big surprise…..

[O]outrage over white police officers abusing and killing unarmed Black Americans sparked a fierce backlash against cops, especially among progressives, and birthed the “defund the police” movement, which was embraced by a surprisingly wide spectrum of Democrats.

You don’t hear that slogan much anymore. So what happened to make it safe for Biden to reorient the Democratic Party’s positioning on crime?

Top Dems argue it was several big things:

— Reality: Crime, especially homicide, has spiked in cities across the country. Black mayors in big progressive-dominated cities like San Francisco (LONDON BREED) and Chicago (LORI LIGHTFOOT ) have been more vocal about the problem than well-known Washington Dems who are now playing catch-up. The Adams race was catalytic.

“Adams becoming mayor of one of the most liberal cities in America shifted the politics,” said one high-ranking Democrat. “He captured it the right way: It’s a false choice to pit civil rights against public safety.”

— Justice: High-profile prosecutions of white cops charged with abuse or murder, such as Minneapolis police officer DEREK CHAUVIN, showed the legal system could work. Still, the tension between advocates of criminal justice reform, which crashed in Congress, and advocates of cracking down on violent crime remains.

“Democrats don’t want to be robbed while pumping their gas or to live in fear,” a former Biden administration official told Playbook. “The White House just needs to make sure the violent crime conversation does not over take the police reform conversation because they are two different things. I believe they are sensitive to that dynamic.”

— Personnel: Biden is surrounded at the top levels of the White House by an older generation of advisers who have long been wary of the leftward shift on crime and policing. BRUCE REED, for example, has been working on the politics of crime since the 1990s. They are often pushing on an open door when it comes to Biden.

— The Dem strategist rebellion: A cottage industry of Democratic polling experts has emerged over the last two years to warn the party of the dangers of mishandling the issue of crime. RUY TEIXEIRA, one of the main anti-defund voices, pointed us to something he wrote last summer:

“Initially dismissed as simply an artifact of the Covid shutdown that was being vastly exaggerated by Fox News and the like for their nefarious purposes, it is now apparent that the spike in violent crime is quite real and that voters are very, very concerned about it. According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research, more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a ‘major crisis’ than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern. … Moreover, majorities of even Democrats now believe violent crime is a major crisis and concerns are sky-high among black voters (70 percent say it’s a major crisis).

“The public response leans heavily in the direction of more policing, not less, countering the defund the police approach that was promulgated by many on the Democratic left and still holds considerable sway in those quarters.”

Back then, Teixeira’s view was seen as heretical among his party’s leaders. Today it’s close to conventional wisdom.”

Of course, there are dissenters from this take on the left of the party. One of the more thoughtful ones is from the Post’s Greg Sargent.

But perhaps we an all agree this is a real problem, not just the fevered fantasy of Fox News!

Teixeira: What Would the Working Class Say? (WWWCS)

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

My attempt to create a meme to lead the Dems down the right path–my latest at The Liberal Patriot. We’ll see if it works.

“All across the Western world the working class is deserting the Left. Thomas Piketty and his colleagues among others have copiously documented this trend. The United States is no exception to this trend.

In the 2020 Presidential election, despite a slight improvement over 2016, Democrats still lost white working class (noncollege) voters in 2020 by 26 points (Catalist two party vote). Since 2012, nonwhite working class voters have shifted away from the Democrats by 18 margin points, with a particularly sharp shift in the last election and particularly among Hispanics. This latter development is particularly important since Democrats have hitherto comforted themselves that losses among the working class were just among whites, who they presume to be motivated by retrograde racial and cultural attitudes. That is no longer a tenable view.

Since the 2020 election, the situation has only worsened. Signs of continued slippage among working class voters were unmistakable in the 2021 elections, most notably among Hispanic and Asian working class voters. In the latest Monmouth poll, Biden’s approval rating among the multiracial working class was an abysmal 32 percent vs. 59 percent disapproval, compared to 52 percent approval among the college-educated.

therefore plausibly claim to represent its interests? And in raw electoral terms, worsening performance among working class voters makes the Democrats’ quest for political dominance essentially impossible, since the share of working class voters in the country is 70 percent larger than the share of college-educated voters.

To help remedy this situation, I suggest a simple test Democrats should be continually making on both their policies and rhetoric: What Would the Working Class Say? (WWWCS). This test is not so hard to do but it does entail getting outside of the liberal college-educated bubble so many Democrats live within, particularly as experienced on social media, in activist circles and within advocacy, nonprofit, media and academic institutions. Look at actual public opinion data—not as summarized by someone you know or something you read. Look at focus group reports. Talk to actual working class people—there are lots of them! Listen to your intuitions about how working class people would likely react to policies and rhetoric currently associated with the Democrats —not how you think they should react. Think of family members or people you grew up with who are working class. Try to get inside their heads. They are less ideological, more focused on material concerns, more likely to be struggling economically, less interested in cutting edge social issues, more patriotic and generally more culturally conservative. All this makes a difference.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot…and subscribe!

Can Dems Leverage Political Polarization?

From “America Has Split, and It’s Now in ‘Very Dangerous Territory’” by New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall:

In “The Ideological Nationalization of Partisan Subconstituencies in the American States,” Devin Caughey, James Dunham and Christopher Warshaw challenge “the reigning consensus that polarization in Congress has proceeded much more rapidly and extensively than polarization in the mass public.”

Instead, Caughey and his co-authors show

a surprisingly close correspondence between mass and elite trends. Specifically, we find that: (1) ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans has widened dramatically within each domain, just as it has in Congress; (2) ideological variation across senators’ partisan subconstituencies is now explained almost completely by party rather than state, closely tracking trends in the Senate; and (3) economic, racial and social liberalism have become highly correlated across partisan subconstituencies, just as they have across members of Congress.

Caughey, Dunham and Warshaw describe the growing partisan salience of racial and social issues since the 1950s:

The explanatory power of party on racial issues increased hugely over this period and that of state correspondingly declined. We refer to this process as the “ideological nationalization” of partisan subconstituencies.

In the late 1950s, they continue,

party explained almost no variance in racial conservatism in either arena. Over the next half century, the Senate and public time series rise in tandem.” Contrary to the claim that racial realignment had run its course by 1980, they add, “our data indicate that differences between the parties continued to widen through the end of the 20th century, in the Senate as well as in the mass public. By the 2000s, party explained about 80 percent of the variance in senators’ racial conservatism and nearly 100 percent of the variance in the mass public.

The three authors argue that there are a number of consequences of “the ideological nationalization of the United States party system.” For one, “it has limited the two parties’ abilities to tailor their positions to local conditions. Moreover, it has led to greater geographic concentration of the parties’ respective support coalitions.”

The result, they note,

is the growing percentage of states with two senators from the same party, which increased from 50 percent in 1980 to over 70 percent in 2018. Today, across all offices, conservative states are largely dominated by Republicans, whereas the opposite is true of liberal states. The ideological nationalization of the party system thus seems to have undermined party competition at the state level.

As a result of these trends, Warshaw wrote me in an email,

It’s going to be very difficult to reverse the growing partisan polarization between Democrats and Republicans in the mass public. I think this will continue to give ideological extremists an advantage in both parties’ primaries. It also means that the pool of people that run for office is increasingly extreme.

In the long term, Warshaw continued,

there are a host of worrying possible consequences of growing partisan polarization among both elites and the public. It will probably reduce partisans’ willingness to vote for the out-party. This could dampen voters’ willingness to hold candidates accountable for poor performance and to vote across party lines to select higher-quality candidates. This will probably further increase the importance of primaries as a mechanism for candidate selection.

Looking over the contemporary political landscape, there appear to be no major or effective movements to counter polarization. As the McCoy-Press report shows, only 16 of the 52 countries that reached levels of pernicious polarization succeeded in achieving depolarization and in “a significant number of instances later repolarized to pernicious levels. The progress toward depolarization in seven of 16 episodes was later undone.”

As Edsall concludes, “That does not suggest a favorable prognosis for the United States.”

As polarization hardens, so does party self-identification. Yet recent elections indicate that there is a substantial number of persuadable and swing voters the Democrats can win under favorable conditions, such as the ‘Trump fatigue’ we saw in the 2020 election and the 2021 run-off election in Georgia. But Trump fatigue won’t help much in the midterm elections this year. The challenge for Dems now is to identify and focus on persuadable and swing voters and connect Democratic candidates with them in a positive way. It won’t be easy. But it’s not like Republicans have anything substantial to offer these voters.

There is not enough time to repair the Democratic ‘brand’ for the midterms. But, with more message discipline focusing on GOP obstruction and gridlock, it should be possible to take the Republican brand down a notch or two – and minimize midterm damage for Democrats.

Why Voting Rights Reform Is Still a Democratic Priority

At The New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner interviews Wendy Weiser, vice-president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice on the topic, “Is There a Future for Voting-Rights Reform?” Some excerpts:

What went wrong in terms of Democratic strategy?

I think that this was a significant failure in the Senate, but I think that it has also advanced the ball for protecting voting rights, and it is not the end of the battle. I do think that pushing for this vote and this legislative agenda was absolutely the right thing to do. Congress could not stand by while our voting rights and our democratic institutions were under such brazen assault. There is a moral obligation to act, and Congress also has an obligation to voters—especially voters of color—to stand up for these rights. It has an obligation to try to check these abuses that have been tearing across the country at a very rapid pace, and in very large numbers. And I do think that, the more that these abuses of our voting rights and our democratic institutions go unanswered, the worse and more brazen the attacks become.

Do you think Democrats have overemphasized the threat of voter suppression and underemphasized the threat of election subversion?

I think the threat is multifaceted, and I think there is both a tremendous threat of voter suppression and a tremendous threat of election subversion. We are tracking legislation on both. The voter-suppression threats have materialized already; the election-subversion attempts are still nascent.

You’ve seen some Republicans talk about reforming the Electoral Count Act in the past couple of weeks. Is there a chance for legislation around that?

The Electoral Count Act absolutely has ambiguities that need to be fixed, and, if they are addressed, that would help reduce the risk of a certain form of sabotage at the very end of Presidential elections. But what we are seeing in terms of election subversion across the country is a much broader attack on impartial election administration—one that opens the door to partisan manipulation of election outcomes and sabotage of election results in a much broader array of races, not just the Presidential race, and at many more points in the election process, not just at the finish line.

My view is that the Freedom to Vote Act is actually the strongest response that has been proposed to election subversion. It doesn’t deal with the Electoral Count Act, but for all the other forms of election subversion the strongest protection is, in fact, establishing baseline national standards for election administration and vote-counting rules and for the ways in which voters can use the court system to enforce those rules. One of the principle ways that those who are attacking our institutions from within are trying to enable election subversion is by putting partisan loyalists—who aren’t necessarily committed to the rule of law or to insuring that everyone’s votes are counted properly—in election-administration positions where they can make decisions that would subvert outcomes. And, if those positions don’t have the discretion to take actions that would suppress votes or throw out votes or refuse to certify votes, then that entire strategy can’t succeed, and is no longer worth pursuing.

Is it worth trying a bill that only focusses on election subversion?

The election-subversion bill will not look dramatically different from the Freedom to Vote Act, because to actually protect against election subversion you need to have some baseline rules for vote counting that the Freedom to Vote Act has. I think those who say that you can attack election subversion without enforcing the right to have your vote counted and having some basic level of access that every American can rely on are going to be disappointed.

An election-subversion bill also leaves another huge problem unaddressed: the gerrymandering that’s going on. In Congress, there may not currently be bipartisan support for fixing that. But there is bipartisan support in the country for addressing it. And a narrowly focussed election-subversion bill will not do so.

I think the most optimistic reading of this effort would be that there’s now more momentum, as you said, to do things like fix the Electoral Count Act. But I wonder about the message to Democratic voters and progressives that the failure of this legislation will lead to the complete erosion of American democracy.

The United States’ democracy ranking has already been downgraded by international organizations. We are in a very precarious, perilous place, and there’s a lot of risk. These are the reforms that would protect our system and turn it around and, frankly, put us in a place where the system would be stronger than it was before. The legislation to roll back voting rights or to sabotage elections has become more brazen, more aggressive, and far more numerous. I think that, if there are no brakes, this is going to continue to get worse.

Democrats are going to have to fight to get the best possible reforms of the Electoral Count Act. But hopes for voting rights reform beyond that now depend on Dems getting focused on midterm elections upsets that can win a real working majority.