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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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Teixeira: Defeat Trump with the ‘probability-maximizing strategy’

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

David Leonhardt Throws Down the Gauntlet

And I throw it down with him. Let’s hypothesize that it will not be easy to defeat Trump in 2020 (not to mention taking back the Senate). Let’s also hypothesize that a second term for Trump will be a huge disaster for the country and the world, making genuine progress on most progressive goals essentially impossible.

If these hypotheses are true–and I sure as hell think they are–one might further hypothesize that Democrats would be obsessively focused on crafting the probability-maximizing strategy for defeating Trump. No unforced errors. No risky position-taking that would push the public far out of its comfort zone.

But one would be wrong about this third hypothesis. Democrats are not, in fact, focusing obsessively on the probability-maximizing strategy of defeating Trump. Oh sure, there are many strategies that could possibly win under the right circumstances, with luck and just the right reactions from the voting public. You can always make a case.

But that’s different from the probability-maximizing strategy: the strategy that will make it most likely that Trump with lose if the Democrats run a reasonably competent campaign, have reasonable luck and run on ideas that can reasonably be expected to elicit positive voter reaction.

In a lot of cases, that ain’t what we got. Leonhardt:

“You would think that Democrats would be approaching the 2020 campaign with a ruthless sense of purpose. But they’re not, at least not yet. They are not focusing on issues that expose Trump’s many vulnerabilities. They have instead devoted substantial time to wonky subjects that excite some progressive activists — and alienate most American voters….

Over the past two decades, incomes for most Americans have barely grown. Median wealth has declined. Americans are frustrated, and a majority supports a populist agenda: higher taxes on corporations and the rich, expanded government health care and financial aid, a higher minimum wage, even a Green New Deal.

The Democrats are on solid ground, substantively and politically, by pushing all of these issues. They should be casting Trump as a plutocrat in populist’s clothes, who has used the presidency to enrich himself and other wealthy insiders at the expense of hard-working middle-class families. It’s a caricature that has the benefit of truth….

The mistake that Democratic candidates have made is thinking that just because they should activate their progressive id on some issues, they should do so on all issues.

There are two main examples, both of which have received a lot of airtime during the presidential debates. The first is the idea of decriminalizing border crossings, so that the illegal entry into this country would be only a civil violation. Most top Democratic candidates — Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — support the idea. If illegal entry weren’t a crime, they say, Trump couldn’t lock people in cages.

Supporters of the idea make intricate, technocratic arguments about how decriminalization won’t make the border less secure. But most voters tune out. They don’t buy the long explanations for why the policy doesn’t mean what it certainly seems to mean: less border enforcement. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, 67 percent of registered voters called decriminalization “a bad idea.”

The second example is a proposal to eliminate private health insurance and require people to have Medicare. Sanders and Warren back it. Again, supporters offer complex arguments about why Americans will love this idea (especially if it’s phrased in just the right way) — and, again, most Americans say no thanks. They’re dealing with enough economic anxiety, without having their health insurance taken away and replaced by something uncertain.

The shame is that both health care and immigration should be Democratic advantages. Most voters recoil at Trump’s racist immigrant-bashing, and most want the option to join Medicare. And if Democrats want to reverse Trump’s policies, they need to beat him, not offer policies, like decriminalization, that would hypothetically constrain him.”

Got it? We gotta beat Trump and any strategy/policy proposal has to be evaluated in that light. Will it reduce or increase the probability that Trump will be defeated? Activists that can’t plausibly make the case that their proposals will increase that probability should stop pushing them and Democratic candidates should have the courage to start ignoring them.

Nothing else will do. This election is too important for self-indulgent progressive grandstanding.


Teixeira: On Wisconsin

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

There is a reasonable case that Wisconsin could be the tipping point for a Democratic victory in 2020. That is, of the “Rustbelt three” target states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Wisconsin is the toughest challenge for the Democrats Therefore, if Democrats take Wisconsin, they are also likely to take Michigan and Pennsylvania and, through that, the Presidency.

The latest poll out of Wisconsin, the highly respected Marquette Law School poll run by Charles Franklin, has some encouraging news for Democrats. Biden runs ahead of Trump by 9 points, 51-42, while Sanders bests Trump by 4 points and Warren and Harris run even with the President.

It’s worth looking at these results a bit more closely, especially why Biden is running so far ahead of Warren (folks may disagree but I consider these two the two likeliest candidates to get the nomination at this point). Biden runs significantly stronger among both white voters (he actually carries them by 5 points) and noncollege-educated voters than Warren, suggesting he is a more appealing candidate to white noncollege voters (the poll does not provide a separate white noncollege break) than Warren.

To get a sense of the significance of this consider the following. If a Democratic candidate could simply replicate Obama’s 2012 performance among white noncollege voters in 2020, that candidate, all else equal, would win the state by six-and-a-half points. By comparison, if the Democratic candidate could match 2012 Obama election black turnout, the candidate would win the state, but only by half a percentage point. This gives you a sense of the relative magnitude of two demographic forces in Wisconsin.

Of course, the standard reply to the Biden vs. Warren numbers is that it’s too early, it’s all name recognition, any Democratic candidate can match Biden’s pull with these groups once the electorate gets to know them, etc., etc.

I’m not so sure. I think Josh Marshall has the right of it here:

“Biden’s stronger numbers in general election horse race polls have been open to differing interpretations. One is simply that he’s better known and credentialed by Barack Obama. So name recognition and trust allows a few more millions of voters to opt for him. But presumably that level of familiarity and trust is one less well known Democrats will be able to build up over time.

That theory is certainly right to a degree. The question is how much.

This poll along with other polls has the other, perhaps greater part of the explanation. In a handful of critical Midwestern states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, et al.) he simply runs better against Trump. Why that is we can debate – more ideologically conventional policy positions, Obama, race, gender, Senate experience. But that it is the case doesn’t seem open to much doubt. Those margins in a number of key states are what translates into that relative advantage in the national polls.

Whether this will persist we can’t know. But for now, polls suggest Biden is well positioned to beat Trump in Wisconsin. If he does, if any Democrat does, they are likely the next President.”

Marshall stresses–as do I–that he does not speak as a “Biden supporter” but rather as someone who thinks these patterns are important and should not be dismissed. I agree.


Dem Presidential Candidates Climate Policies Unveiled at Town Hall

The staff at Grist, one of the top environmental websites has a post, “How did Democrats fare at CNN’s climate town hall? We asked the experts.” The Grist staff notes that “Rather than arguing or talking over each other, the candidates actually had the time and space to speak substantively on this complex issue at CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall, discussing carbon taxes, geoengineering, lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, and much more…So which Democratic candidates did the heavy lifting on climate policy and wowed us with their know-how?”

“I think Warren was the best by far,” noted Leah Stokes, a University of California at Santa Barbara political scientist. “She was so sharp. One point of weakness: her answer on nuclear was a little unclear. She sidestepped the issue of whether she’d extend the licenses of existing plants, which is what Sanders said he wouldn’t do. Nuclear is unpopular, so I think she was trying to thread a needle, but it left people saying she’s anti-nuclear. Otherwise, she knocked it out of the park.

Climate activist and cofounder of Zero Hour Jamie Margolin complained that “many candidates kept mentioning stupid late targets for net-zero carbon, like 2050, that are way, way past what we actually need in order to solve the climate crisis.”

At The Guardian, Emily Holden and Oliver Millman noted that “Bernie Sanders painted an apocalyptic future wreaked by the climate crisis and pledged to wage war on the fossil fuel industry,” while “Biden meanwhile pitched himself as the candidate who could lead negotiations with the diplomatic might of the US. He said his first step as president would be to call an international meeting to strengthen the Paris climate agreement…“We should be organizing the world, demanding change, we need a diplomat-in-chief,” Biden said. “Look what’s happening now in the Amazon, what’s going on? Nothing.”

At CNN politics, Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner noted some of the policies other candidates are advocating:

Kamala Harris said  “she would direct the Department of Justice to go after oil and gas companies who have directly impacted global warming. “They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability…”

Amy Klobuchar called for a reversal to the Trump administration’s move to rollback regulations on methane emissions. “That is very dangerous,” she said of the administration’s move.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said that people who don’t think nuclear power needs to be part of the fight against climate change — a group that includes many of his presidential opponents — “aren’t looking at the facts.” Booker said that he warmed to nuclear power after reading studies about it and talking to nuclear scientists about technological advancements “that make nuclear safer.”

Millman and Holden noted that “According to Yale University polling, the climate emergency is now the second most important voting issue for Democrats, behind healthcare. Among all voting Americans, nearly seven in 10 are worried about climate change, the highest ever recorded level of concern. There are strong bipartisan majorities in favour of setting pollution limits on industry, businesses, cars and trucks.”

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates received high scores from the League of Conservation Voters for their votes on environmental legislative proposals in 2018, including: Booker (100%); Harris (100); Warren (99); Klobuchar (96); O’Rourke (95); and Sanders (92).


Galston: Why Dems Must Win Back ‘Obama to Trump’ States

In his Wall St. Journal column, “Here’s What’s Sure to Happen in 2020: Whoever Trump faces, voter turnout and the economy will be decisive,” William A. Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and advisor to President Clinton and other Democratic presidential candidates, spells out “some propositions we can advance with reasonable confidence,” including,

Turnout will be very high. The 2018 election featured the highest midterm turnout since 1914, the first time U.S. senators were popularly elected. If the historical relationship between midterm and general elections holds, 2020 would bring the highest share of the voting-age population to the polls in half a century, and perhaps since 1908.

Much depends on whether voter mobilization crosses party lines or remains asymmetrical as in 2018, when Democratic turnout was much higher than Republican. On the one hand, President Trump’s presence on the ballot will draw out supporters who stayed at home last year. On the other hand, relative to 2012, African-American participation in 2016 fell while it surged among white working-class voters, which suggests that Democrats have more room for growth.

Despite the rise of cultural issues, the economy will matter. In every election since 1980 except 1992, an increase in economic growth between the third and fourth year of a president’s term has been followed by victory for his party, while a decrease was followed by defeat. The slowdown of economic growth from 2.9% in 2015 to 1.6% in 2016 roughened Hillary Clinton ’s road to the White House. A predicted slowdown from 2.9% in 2018 to an estimated 2.1% in 2019 and 1.8% to 1.9% in 2020 would create a headwind for President Trump’s reelection campaign.

President Trump is likely to receive significantly less than 50% of the popular vote, and a smaller share than his Democratic opponent. In the past three general elections, the Republican nominee has averaged 46.3%—almost exactly what Mr. Trump received in 2016—compared with 50.7% for the Democrat. In the past five elections, the Republican average has been 47.5% versus the Democrats’ 49.9%. Since Mr. Trump entered office, his job approval has seldom exceeded the share of the vote he received in 2016.

Mr. Trump prevailed narrowly not because he did better than the average Republican nominee but because Mrs. Clinton underperformed the average Democrat. The missing votes went to third-party and independent candidates, whose total share rose from 1.7% in 2012 to 5.7% in 2016.

Galston, author of “Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy” and other works of political analysis, adds that “The 2012 figure was no fluke. In the four elections from 2000 to 2012, the share of the vote not going to the two major parties averaged 2%. The 2016 election was the outlier…” Galston notes further that in 2016, “the Libertarian candidate received nearly 4.5 million votes, about 3.3% of the total cast, including 3.6% in Michigan and Wisconsin and 4.2% in Arizona.”

Libertarians have reason to be displeased with Trump, including his tariff policies, rejection of Libertarian tolerance values and accommodation of rigid evangelical views on reproductive rights. But it is unclear whether Democrats can win an adequate share of their votes in the key states. Glaston notes further that,

If the popular vote is close, the states that proved decisive in 2016 probably will remain pivotal in 2020. In the Blue Wall triad—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—Mr. Trump’s job approval has been consistently lower than in Florida, Georgia and Texas, where it stands at or above 50%, as it also does in Ohio. Three other states—North Carolina, Iowa and Arizona—occupy an intermediate zone in which Mr. Trump’s popularity is higher than in the Blue Wall but lower than in the South.

In other words, if the president can hold his Democratic challenger’s popular-vote advantage at or near the 2 percentage points of 2016, he may well prevail again in the Electoral College. At the other end of the spectrum, if the Democrat were to approach Barack Obama ’s 7-point margin in 2008, victory over Mr. Trump would be assured. Even if there is a huge mobilization of Democrats in solidly blue states, a 4-point popular-vote advantage would probably include enough voters in swing states to create a blue Electoral College majority. It’s impossible to determine exactly where the tipping point lies between 2 and 4 percentage points.

Galston concludes that “Democrats should have learned from 2016, the outcome of a presidential election is starkly binary, and the cost of defeat is very high. They should choose the candidate who maximizes their chance of winning…this means—first and foremost—the candidate who has the best chance of carrying the states that Mr. Trump pried off the Blue Wall.”

This is the foremost challenge facing Democratic rank and file and each of the presidential candidates when the primary and caucus season begins in five months. In addition to front-runner Biden, there are several other candidates who can make a compelling case that they can win back enough of the rust belt states that are required for an electoral college victory. The time to hone that message and pitch it with gusto has arrived.


Teixeira: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin: Understanding Some Key Demographic Differences

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

Dan Balz’ lengthy article in the Sunday Post is a useful summary of the 2020 electoral map. He identifies four states as being key to the upcoming contest: Florida and, quite properly, the Rustbelt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Let me focus here on that trio of states and run down some of the key demographic differences between them which are perhaps harder to see than their obvious similarities.

Start with the white noncollege population. It is high in all three but in Wisconsin it is highest. States of Change data predict this demographic will make up 59 percent of Wisconsin eligible voters in 2020. Michigan will have 56 percent white noncollege eligibles in 2020 and Pennsylvania 54 percent.

In 2016, States of Change analysis indicates that Pennsylvania had the largest white noncollege deficit for the Democrats, 29 points. The white noncollege Democratic deficit was 21 points in Michigan and just (!) 19 points in Wisconsin.

In terms of white college eligibles, they will be highest in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (26 percent) and lowest in Michigan (22 percent). In all three states the share of white college voters will likely be significantly higher than these figures because of this group’s high turnout.

In 2016, we find interestingly, that Wisconsin had the largest white college advantage for the Democrats–15 points. Pennsylvania had a 9 point white college Democratic advantage and Michigan actually had a slight deficit of 2 points.

Turning to nonwhites, Wisconsin should have the lowest share of this demographic segment in 2020–just 15 percent of eligibles. Pennsylvania will have 20 percent nonwhite eligibles and Michigan 22 percent.

In Wisconsin, the shares of eligible voters in 2020 should be fairly close to one another between blacks (6 percent), Hispanics (5 percent) and Asian/other race (4 percent). In the other two states, black eligible voters will dominate: 13 percent black eligibles in Michigan to 3 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other; 10 percent black eligibles in Pennsylvania to 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other.

In 2016, black turnout was down slightly in Michigan and Pennsylvania and strongly in Wisconsin. If black turnout in 2016 had matched 2012 levels in these states, Michigan and Wisconsin probably would have gone Democratic. But Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t have.


Teixeira: Polling on the Democratic Nomination Race

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

So much data, so little time! Probably the single thing you should be sure to look at is the RCP rolling average of candidate preference. Right now, Biden’s still ahead of course with almost twice the support of Sanders and Warren, who are now quite close in the polling average. Harris is a fairly distant fourth.

But also worth paying attention to are several media outlets who are starting to release data from their polls in graphical, cumulated form with interesting internal demographic trends. Politico, for example, has some nice material up from the Morning Consult poll. These data have Sanders still leading Warren by a significant amount, though they do have Warren gaining ground as pretty much every other poll does.

Some noteworthy internals here is that Sanders and Biden are neck and neck among Hispanics, while Biden has roughly twice the level of support of Sanders among blacks. And, as the polling feature notes, “Warren leads among the educated and rich, Sanders among the uneducated and poor”. There is also an interesting chart showing how incredibly white Buttigieg’s support is.

The Economist has even better visuals using YouGov data. For whatever reason, Warren seems to run particularly strong in these polls, nosing ahead of Sanders in recent data. The internals give Biden a slight lead among Hispanics by nearly four times the level of Sanders’ support among blacks. Biden runs ahead of Sanders and Warren among those with high school or less or some college, while Warren is the leader among both four year college graduates and those with postgraduate education.

Finally, Warren is the leader among those being at least considered by voters, regardless of who their first choice is. Among those whose first choice is specifically Biden, Sanders or Harris, Warren gets the most “consider” designations.


Teixeira: Why Dems Must Kill the Filibuster

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

Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the Senate Filibuster’s Got to Go!

Kind of catchy huh? But more importantly, absolutely true. Ron Brownstein does the best job I’ve seen of making the case Democrats have no choice but to get rid of the filibuster–well, if they want to get anything done that is.

In this context, it’s interesting to note that Warren has probably been the most forceful in advocating the elimination of the filibuster while Biden has been perhaps least enthusiastic (he called it “very dangerous” recently). So if it comes down to Biden vs. Warren, we could, based on current data, have a candidate who is most likely to get elected but couldn’t govern vs. a candidate less likely to get elected but who could actually govern. Interesting tradeoff.

“Even if Democrats regain unified control of the White House and Congress in 2020, the fate of their ambitious legislative agenda will still likely hinge on a fundamental question: Do they try to end the Senate filibuster?

If the party chooses to keep the filibuster, it faces a daunting prospect: Democrats elected primarily by voters in states at the forefront of the country’s demographic, cultural, and economic changes will likely have their agenda blocked by Republican senators largely representing the smaller, rural states least touched by all of those changes. In fact, since the Senate gives each state two seats, the filibuster allows Republican senators from states representing only about one-fifth of the country’s population to be in a position to stymie Democratic legislation….

If Democrats take back the Senate, preserving the filibuster amounts to providing the places most resistant to America’s changes a veto over the agenda of the Democratic coalition based in the places that are most welcoming to them. In a Senate controlled by Democrats, the filibuster would effectively empower what America has been over what it is becoming.”


Teixeira: Arizona Blue?

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

Good News from Arizona!

A new Arizona poll from OH Predictive Insights has Mark Kelly ahead of Martha McSally 46-41 in a 2020 Senate trial head matchup. Notably, as shown in the graphic below, Kelly is ahead in Maricopa county (Phoenix metro) by 9 points and in Pima county (Tuscon metro) by 10 points.

This is huge because these two counties together totally dominate the Arizona vote–over three-quarters of voters between them and over 60 percent in Maricopa alone. Note that these patterns are similar to those we saw in 2018 when Kyrsten Sinema won her Senate seat over McSally.

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Teixeira: The Working Class Vs. The “Woke-eoisie” — Which Way Will Elizabeth Warren Go?

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

Elizabeth Warren could win the Democratic nomination and even win the general election. But to do so, she’s got to make some changes. As Jeff Greenfield notes in Politico,

“The strategic premises of her campaign are to claim the progressive mantle from Bernie Sanders, stake the “alternative to Biden” ground, and then engage in a one-on-one battle for the nomination….There are significant challenges to this strategy, not the least of which is winning over a reasonable share of the African American vote, where Biden dominates…..

In polls, Warren trails Biden in South Carolina by dozens of points. What’s more, about half of the state’s black Democrats say they support Biden, while Warren is practically tied for the lead among the state’s white Democrats.

And African American Democrats are, as Tom Edsall pointed out in a much-discussed column in the New York Times, on average, more centrist than white Democrats. The party’s “more moderate wing, which is pressing bread-and-butter concerns like jobs, taxes and a less totalizing vision of health care reform, is majority nonwhite, with almost half of its support coming from African-American and Hispanic voters,” he wrote.

So it would make sense for Warren to draw some distinctions between herself and her party’s most liberal voters, in order to make her candidacy more appealing—or at least acceptable—to the elements of her party that do not fully embrace the canon. And there’s a long history of winning presidential candidates doing this without alienating their most loyal supporters.”

This shouldn’t be so hard. Most of her economic positions are fine in the context of today’s Democratic party and can be sold to a wider electorate in a general election. Voters really do oppose crony capitalism and really do want a reformed system that isn’t dominated by the rich and Wall Street and is focused on the welfare of the middle class and poor. That plugs right into the concerns of the moderate voters, particularly nonwhite and working class voters, mentioned by Edsall.

But Warren has gone too far in some areas, competing to seem the most “woke” on issues like decriminalizing the border and reparations and endorsing Medicare for All instead of Medicare for All Who Want It. This is not necessary. Her strong economic program has great appeal but so far Warren’s support is heavily dominated by educated whites, with very little noncollege or nonwhite support, as shown by the graphic below.

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That needs to change and the way to do it is to take positions that appeal to the working class, not the “woke-eoisie”, and ditch the ones that don’t. My guess is she’d retain most of her educated white support anyway but start gaining in places where she’s currently weak. If she wants to win, that may be a bet she’ll have to make.


Teixeira: Can Dems Leverage Public’s Liberal Mood?

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

America the Liberal

Yes, yes, I know, Trump and all that. But facts, gentlemen and women, are stubborn things and the facts are that Americans are in a pretty liberal mood these days. How do I know?–because James Stimson’s public policy mood measure tells me so. Gregory Koger’s post on the Mischiefs of Faction site has the details:

“Stimson’s updated measure of public policy mood….revealed that Americans’ support for government action is at its highest point since the index began in 1952….

As explained in (among other places) Public Opinion In America and Tides of Consent, public policy mood combines polling responses across a wide range of policy issues to measure the American public’s collective appetite for more or less government, liberal or conservative policies. Even if we think citizens are not fully informed about stock market regulation, health care insurance, and the dozens of other specific policies pollsters ask them about, Stimson’s mood measures their underlying preference for government activism.

The mood index helps us understand previous shifts in American politics. Before 2018, the mood index peaked in the 1960s, coinciding with landmark civil rights laws, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society social welfare policies, and the expansion of civil liberties by Supreme Court decisions. During this period there was a dramatic increase in the number of issues addressed by government actors. Public appetite for more government reached a nadir around 1980, inspiring the Republican Party to embrace a starkly conservative presidential candidate and a range of policies that would have seemed unthinkable a decade earlier.

The updated mood index shows public policy mood is at its peak. This manifests itself in public support for more government action across a range of issues: gun control, health care (e.g. a public option), college tuition, paid parental leave, minimum wage policy, etc. NPR/Marist, for example, polled on a range of Democratic proposals (plus Obamacare repeal) last month. While there are some unpopular items, Democrats have broad support for many of the policies approved by the House or advocated by Democratic presidential candidates.”

Of course, this liberal mood won’t last forever and much depends on how well Democrats play offence and how well Republicans play defense in this pro-activism period. As Koger notes:

“The history of public mood and American politics suggests the stage is set for progressive policy change after the 2020 election, but this is not guaranteed. It is not clear how well parties will take advantage (Democrats) or deflect (Republicans) public support for more active government. Nor is it clear how well our electoral system—from its campaign financing system to the small-state bias of the Senate and Electoral College—will translate public opinion into government action…If the Democrats gain unified control of the federal government in 2021, the real question is how well they use their window of opportunity to create durable policy programs and systemic political change.”

Yes, that’s the real question. The public is clearly moving in a liberal direction–but can Democrats get their act together and take maximum advantage? I’d say that’s not yet clear.