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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Summing Up the DSA Convention

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

Leaving aside some of the nutty resolutions like the Open Borders one, how should we assess the DSA convention as a whole? Harold Meyerson offers some thoughts, especially focusing on the Bernie or Bust resolution, which has fairly immediate implications. He also does a good job of discussing some of the disciplined caucuses like the Trotskyist-inflected Bread and Roses and the quasi-anarchist Build.

He concludes:

“Making plenty of errors along the way, like many of the youth organizations that DSA demographically resembles, I think the majority of DSA members will succeed in keeping the group from descending into the Scylla and Charybdis of sectarianism and anarchy. The electoral successes of DSA members running as Democrats—and there are now roughly 100 DSA members in elected office—will not just build the organization but help anchor it in the real world.

And the presidential runoff of 2020? I think DSA’s national political committee might take a leaf from the group’s Atlanta local during Stacey Abrams’s 2018 campaign for governor. At the time, the local wasn’t endorsing nonsocialists, and some of its members likely believed—rightly, I’d say—that a DSA endorsement would be one more cross Abrams would have to bear in her bid to carry Georgia. Nonetheless, every other progressive group inside and outside the state was enthusiastically backing her, and many DSA members were eagerly working on her campaign. Here’s what the local said:

“For many reasons, we cannot endorse Abrams ourselves, but neither can we stand aside while our friends and allies fight for something they know will make their lives better. We voted to encourage our members, if they feel so moved, to stand up and fight in this election cycle.”

In 2020, DSA’s friends and allies—in immigrant communities and communities of color, in groups seeking to combat the climate crisis and save the planet, in organizations of working people seeking a radically more equitable economy and society—will be fighting for their lives to replace Trump with a Democrat. It won’t be a battle between socialism and barbarism, but it will be a battle against barbarism, and the Atlanta statement offers a way that DSA can join it.”

Worthwhile reading and considerably better than the New York Times story. For a completely different perspective you might want to check out libertarian socialist Nathan Robinson’s take on the convention in Current Affairs. Robinson’s politics aren’t mine but it is an engaging piece with some vivid anecdotes.

This Jacobin piece is good on what actually happened at the convention–what passed. what didn’t and how organizational questions were dealt with (always more important than people think they are). The author. Andrew Sernatinger is from my old stomping grounds in Madison, WI, so I feel a certain kinship with him.

Sernatinger was, however, responsible for the Bernie or Bust resolution. which I am not too enthusiastic about. According to Sernatinger, the dominant strand on thinking in the DSA on electoral work is to build toward a “dirty break” with the Democrats and form their own independent party.

Good luck with that.

Dann and Jennings: Can the Working-Class Trust Democrats?

The following post, by consumer lawyer and former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and Leo Jennings III, a leading Northeast Ohio political consultant and media specialist, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Two years ago, we compared the opioid epidemic to the mortgage crisis that nearly cratered the global economy, noting how both were caused by corporate greed. Recent reporting in the Washington Post and other media outlets reveals an important difference between the two: unlike the regulators who were blithely ignorant of what was happening in the financial markets, officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) knew exactly how many opioid pills were being distributed in the U.S. and where they were going. They simply chose to do nothing about it even though DEA investigators and line attorneys were pushing to hold at least one major drug manufacturer responsible for fueling the deadly epidemic.

The Obama administration’s decision to let drug company CEOs and managers off the hook runs parallel with its refusal to prosecute the big bank and brokerage officials who ignited the mortgage crisis. This eagerness to place Wall Street above Main Street is the key to solving the mystery that has confounded pundits, pollsters, and prognosticators since November 8, 2016: why did so many blue-collar and working class voters abandon the Democratic Party and vote for Trump?

Teixeira: The Coming Democratic Majority

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

The excellent Lane Kenworthy makes this case as well–better!–than I ever have in a section of an essay he put up on his website on “Voters, groups, parties, and elections” The whole essay is great, extremely crisp and extremely fair to the various literatures he cites. So you should really read the whole thing, but here is a taste from his section on “The coming Democratic majority”.

“In the aftermath of the 2016 election, with Republicans holding the presidency and a majority in both houses of congress, it was easy to dismiss the notion of a coming Democratic majority. But if anything, the case for this projection is stronger now than when Judis and Teixeira first offered it.

Recent Republican parity (and occasional majority status) in national elections is largely a function of the country’s antiquated electoral rules. The Democratic presidential candidate has gotten a majority of the popular vote in six of the past seven elections, but twice the electoral college has handed the presidency to the Republican instead. Democrats frequently get more votes than Republicans in Senate elections, but Republicans remain competitive because they have a hold on a number of small conservative states, each of which gets the same number of senate seats as large progressive states such as California and New York.

As a country gets richer, its citizens tend to want more insurance against loss, greater fairness and opportunity for the less-advantaged, and more individual freedom. The first of these leads to support for more generous and expansive government social programs. The second and third produce growing progressivism on social and cultural issues. Each of these shifts favors the Democratic Party….

[M]ost Americans, even those who dislike the idea of big government or who call themselves “conservative,” favor much of what government actually does. And quite a few would prefer that government do more.

What about social and cultural issues?…[L]ow-income Republicans differ from high-income Republicans in their degree of economic progressivism, with quite a few low-income Republicans just as progressive as Democrats. For Republicans, cultural conservatism has become just as important as limited government, if not more so.

But cultural conservatism is on the decline. This is what we would expect, given the shift toward postmaterialist value orientations. And it is what we observe in the public opinion survey data. Every noteworthy cultural shift that has occurred over the past half century — on gender roles, families, racial and ethnic inclusion, religion, and more — has been away from traditionalism and in the direction of greater fairness and individual liberty…..

The clearest signal that the Republican Party faces diminishing electoral support comes from the views and party preferences of younger Americans. Recall that value orientations and party preferences tend to be formed around age 20 and stick throughout the life course. “Millennials” and members of “generation Z” tend to be considerably more progressive on social and cultural issues than preceding generations. And younger cohorts are more likely than their predecessors to identify as Democrats and much more likely to vote for Democrats.”

Kenworthy then goes on to discuss the issue of racial anxiety–its origins and whether it has enough staying power to keep Republicans from moving to the center indefinitely. Again, read the whole thing if you have time.

Figure 16. Population that is nonwhite and/or Hispanic
Share of the total population. The dashed portion of the line for the US as a whole is a projection. Data source: Census Bureau.

Teixeira: How Seriously Should We Take the “Texodus”?

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

The spate of House Republican retirements in Texas has gotten people thinking again about Texas’ political trajectory. How seriously should we take this?

Certainly one should take this seriously as a big boost to Democrats’ chance of retaining control of the House in 2020. But what about winning a statewide race in Texas in 2020, particularly of course in the Presidential race? This is still a very heavy lift though these developments should remind us that Texas is rapidly changing in this era, so such a result is no longer out of the question. As Sean Trende, the election analyst for the conservative RCP site, and one uninclined to pump up Democrats’ chances, recently tweeted:

“People grossly oversold GOP vulnerability in TX pre-Trump and are grossly underselling it now. Texas is an overwhelmingly urban/suburban state, so GOP weakening in the suburbs is felt disproportionately in TX. It could go blue, quickly, under this current configuration.

People really underestimate how many people live in rural/small town areas east of the hundredth meridian (so wi, oh get redder), and overestimate how many live west of it (tx, az get bluer)”

Trende’s point is underscored by data from University of Houston professors Renee Cross and Richard Murray:

“Metro Texas and the state’s outlying Anglo counties were similar in both demographics and partisan voting patterns for most of the latter half of the 20th century, even as high birth rates and migration from elsewhere in Texas and nearby states propelled urban growth after World War II.

Those metro counties boomed in the 1990s, a trend that has only accelerated. Between 2010 and 2018, the 27 metro counties added almost 3 million people, compared to just 375,000 for the 199 non-metro, non-bordercounties — growth that profoundly altered the demographic makeup of the state’s metropolitan areas. Anglo growth slowed as birth rates dropped and migration from elsewhere in Texas and neighboring states slowed; metro growth now is driven by international immigration and higher birth rates among non-Anglo urban residents…

Republicans are now a clear minority in the large metro areas of Texas.

The shift is illustrated by Fort Bend County, a suburban area southwest of Houston with large Latino, Asian American and African American populations. Mitt Romney defeated President Obama there by 15,000 votes in 2012, and all local Republicans easily won election. In 2016, Trump lost Fort Bend by 18,000 votes. In 2018, O’Rourke topped Cruz by 31,000 votes, and all 10 Republicans in contested countywide elections were defeated.

What does this mean for 2020? Metropolitan growth in Texas will certainly continue, along with its ever-growing share of the vote — 68% of the vote in 2016. And the latest census estimates suggest the Latino population is increasingly choosing to live in metro areas. Expect a growing difference in how metro Texas votes compared with the outlying counties.”

So, could this really happen in 2020? Well, a lot of things would have to go right. Clinton lost Texas by 9 points in 2016. Ongoing demographic change should knock that deficit down to about 7.4 points in 2020, even if all other voting behavior remains the same. Then if Democrats managed a big margin swing in their favor (15 points) among Hispanic, Asian and other race voters, that should bring the deficit down further to around 3.2 points. Then you are in a position where some combination of increased support among whites (college or noncollege, but likely mostly college) and stronger Latino turnout could put the Democratic candidate over the line.

That’s a lot of “if”s. But it is no longer out of the question.

Teixeira: Where We Are After the Fourth Democratic Presidential Debate

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

So, Where Are We After the Latest Round of Debates?

John Judis’ piece on the Talking Points Memo site is a good place to start, which runs down many of the disquieting and counter-productive (from the standpoint of Democratic victory) stances taken by various Democratic candidates. By my count, he hits points 1,2, 5, 6 and 7 of the Common Sense Democrat creed in his discussion.

As for effects on the nomination race, I think Biden will remain the front-runner with Warren, Harris and Sanders below that and Harris perhaps slipping a bit. Booker preformed well and may get some sort of bump. But, for all the strident positions taken and various attack lines launched, particularly at Biden, I doubt if things will change too much.

It’s interesting to speculate about why so many candidates feel obliged to take non-viable political stances in their quest for the nomination. Kevin Drum has a theory which I cannot completely discount: He blames it on “the twitterization of the progressive movement”.

“No matter how carefully you curate your Twitter feed, and no matter how much you try to take Twitter with a grain of salt, it will inevitably overexpose you to a very specific subset of the progressive movement. This is not just the activist subset. It’s a group that’s way leftier, way louder, way less tolerant, way woker, way younger, and way whiter than the Democratic Party as a whole. Even if you think you’re sophisticated enough to understand this and account for it, spending time on Twitter almost certainly skews your view of the progressive movement….

Many of the Democratic candidates seem like they’re in thrall to the lefty twitterverse, deathly afraid of doing anything that might bring down a viral storm on their heads. And it’s hard to blame them, since campaign reporters also love Twitter, and will turn these viral shitstorms into page A1 stories in the New York Times.”

An interesting twist on this is to consider how this might be leading candidates especially banking on black support like Harris and Booker astray. They appear to be assuming that attacks on Biden on race and on his association with various controversial aspects of Obama’s record will eventually pay off with black voters.

But what if they’re wrong? What if in reality this sort of stuff appeals more to a particular sector of woke white liberals than to black voters? That certainly seems to be the pattern so far. And the latest debates may just confirm that. From a Politico article on reaction to attacks on Obama’s record:

“Henry Crespo, former chair of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, who watched the debate with about a dozen fellow black Democratic officials and operatives, cold-called a POLITICO reporter outraged with what he saw transpire on the debate stage Tuesday and the following day, when Harris and Booker appeared to him to be insufficiently supportive of Obama.

“Obama is an icon in our community. And they’re attacking his legacy Obamacare? And Joe Biden is the one defending it?” he asked.

“We were sitting here watching this and wondering: ‘What the hell are you doing? What is wrong with our party?’ It’s like they want to lose,” Crespo said, adding that Democrats like him resent Harris and Booker for attacking Biden’s record on race.

“Joe Biden is not Bull Connor,” Crespo said. “You just can’t make us believe it.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Biden’s campaign co-chair and the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Obamacare is widely supported among African Americans because it’s good policy and people know how hard it was for Obama to pass his signature health law.

“I don’t think it’s the wisest move to go after it. You’ve got to realize when you go after it, you’re doing exactly what Trump and Republicans have tried to do, which is repeal Obamacare,” he said. “When you talk about the Affordable Care Act, there’s deep, deep appreciation for it. That was a hard-fought win.”…

“The attacks, particularly from Harris and Booker, have been backfiring with black voters who always show up in Democratic primaries,” said Patrick Murray, a Monmouth University pollster who released a survey last week showing Biden capturing 51 percent of the African-American vote in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, where more than 60 percent of the electorate is black.

“Black voters are significantly less liberal than white voters in the Democratic primary,” Murray said. “So if their strategy is to attack him because he’s not woke enough on race or left enough on issues like Medicare for All, it’s not going to help you with these voters.”

Murray said polls show the dismissal of Obamacare made no sense more broadly with Democratic voters who like the program. Surveys also show voters prefer Biden’s proposal to add a Medicare-like public option to Obamacare rather than scrapping all private insurance and instituting a Medicare for All plan.”

More broadly, Ron Brownstein reminds us that, beyond the leanings of black voters, the overall structure of the Democratic primary electorate makes an approach that works best with woke white liberals and the twitterverse unwise.

“While the attacks on Biden from his left could further erode his position with the party’s progressive wing, his rivals may have simultaneously painted themselves more deeply into an ideological corner that constrains their capacity to grow among more centrist Democratic voters.

In the 2016 race, voters who identified as “very liberal” were the only ideological group in which Sanders ran evenly with Hillary Clinton. But they represented only about one-fourth of all primary voters, according to a cumulative analysis of 2016 exit polls by CNN. Voters who identified as “somewhat liberal” (just over one-third) or “moderate and conservative” (about two-fifths) cast a larger share of the vote. Likewise, voters over age 45 cast fully 60 percent of all primary votes in 2016, compared with about one-sixth for voters under 30.”

In short, it could be that some of the leading candidates are drastically underestimating the number of Common Sense Democrats and vastly overestimating the number of woke progressives. So far, that’s to Biden’s advantage.

Quick Takes on the Third 2020 Presidential Debate

“Warren had a strong performance. For instance, she may have had the line of the night by shooting down a Delaney attack by asking why someone would run for president if they don’t have big ideas and plans. Warren has been firm and aggressive in defense of her progressive views, continuing to use the word “fight” over and over again when describing how she’ll take on Trump and change the country. I don’t think she’s going to necessarily rocket up further in the polls, but she’s positioned herself to be a strong contender for the nomination heading into the fall.” – Geoffrey Skelley at FiveThirtyEight.

“Steve Bullock: The Montana governor, to his immense credit, understood that this debate was his one big chance to make an impression with voters — and move from the third tier upward. I’m not sure if his numbers will move in a major way, but Bullock went for it — from his opening statement on. He made clear, time and time again, that he did not believe that the liberal views of Warren and Sanders were grounded in reality and did believe that those views would cost Democrats the election…If moderates were looking for someone other than former Vice President Joe Biden to support in this primary, Bullock offered himself as a viable alternative.” – Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics.

“…While Sanders and Warren correctly pointed out the problems with “good” private insurance ― namely that it’s at the whim of employers and frequently leaves very sick people with huge bills ― they never acknowledged the core political reality that polls have shown repeatedly and as recently as this week: Support for Medicare for All drops dramatically when people hear that enrollment in a new government plan would be mandatory.” – Jonathan Cohn at HuffPo.

“My bottom line–I’m not sure whether any of these five will surge in the polls or be on the debate stage in September. But I think both Bullock and Delaney have succeeded in pushing the Democratic 2020 debate to the center. And I think there’s an outside chance that Bullock actually gets a look from the party.” – Perry Bacon, Jr. at FiveThirtyEight.

“The “moderates,” desperate for a big moment and probably (as my colleague Jonathan Chait suggests) looking to become a back-up option to Joe Biden if he fades, obliged — some through substantive criticisms and others alluding to their fear of public opinion and Republican attacks. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whose views were generally being challenged by moderators and rivals alike, fired back lustily, too, with Warren emulating and sometimes exceeding Bernie’s customary tone of righteous indignation.” – Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine.

“Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), a candidate who has gained no traction, summed up the critique about an hour into the debate. “In this discussion already tonight, we’ve talked about taking private health insurance away from union members in the industrial Midwest, we’ve talked about decriminalizing the border, and we’ve talked about giving free health care to undocumented workers when so many Americans are struggling to pay for their health care,” Ryan said. “I quite frankly don’t think that is an agenda that we can move forward on and win.” – Andrew Prokop at Vox.

“Ten Democratic candidates struggled to overcome an abysmal debate format and moderators bent on forcing them to address right-wing talking points and attack each other. Some managed to rise nonetheless. Others continued to spur only questions about why, exactly, they were on stage to begin with. Once again, the winners were the progressive policies shaping the race and, by extension, the two candidates who have championed and driven those policies into the national debate…” – Laura Clawson at Daily Kos.

Number of words spoken by candidates participating in night one of the second Democratic debate, as of 10:44 p.m. Tuesday. – Annette Choi and Erin Doherty at FiveThirtyEight.

Elizabeth Warren 2,805
Pete Buttigieg 2,651
Bernie Sanders 2,642
Amy Klobuchar 2,043
Beto O’Rourke 1,930
John Delaney 1,815
Steve Bullock 1,804
Tim Ryan 1,770
Marianne Williamson 1,637
John Hickenlooper 1,570

Excludes words spoken in Spanish


“My overall take on the Tuesday scrum was that Bernie and Liz maintained their hold on the party’s divided left and did well enough to stay in second and third (or third and second) positions in the national polls. I also thought Pete Buttigieg found a way to speak to viewers that was no longer in the brightest-kid-in-the-class mode, into which he fell too often during the first set of debates…” – Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect.

“Democrats would do well to act like a sports team, watch the film of this encounter and consider how well Medicare-for-all would hold up on the 2020 battlefield. Tuesday’s test should be sobering.” – E. J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washington Post.

“Besides a few passing mentions to families struggling to pay their bills, Democrats didn’t talk about what they would do to raise people’s wages and incomes. After health care, which got nearly 30 minutes of airtime during the debate, the No. 1 concern Midwestern voters have is about their paychecks.” – Alexia Fernandez Campbell at Vox.

“The fact that Democrats are having this debate at all, however, shows that they recognize the deeper stakes of the 2020 election. Presidential elections are about policy and partisanship and ideology, certainly, but they’re also a test of where America stands. In a time of intense anxiety and fracture, when many Americans in both parties fear that the country is veering away from its fundamental values, Democratic presidential candidates have to offer a vision for how to remedy the country’s broken soul. Otherwise, they may find themselves sitting alone in a hotel room on November 4, surrounded by their stacks of plans with nowhere to go.” – Emma Green at The Atlantic.

“The root flaw of the debate was that because of the luck of the draw, Sanders and Warren weren’t set against the only two moderates who are in their league: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris…All in all, the debate evoked the reverse of the famous lines from W.B. Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming”—this time, the best were full of passionate intensity, while the worst lacked all conviction. The centrists did not hold.” – Jeet Heer at The Nation.

“…Biden is not just a strong candidate but currently leading the race — and by a pretty large margin. The view on display Tuesday night of two New England progressives taking center stage and shooting down all comers was powerful but doesn’t reflect the actual state of the primary…it’s difficult for debates to move the conversation forward unless the frontrunner engages with his main critics not on obscure aspects of 1970s civil rights policy but on the big issues of 2020. It didn’t happen in the first debate, and the structure of the second one makes it essentially impossible. That means round three, when the roster will narrow and the format will shift to a single stage, will in most respects be the first real contest of the season.” – Matthew Yglesias at Vox.

Teixeira: Josh Marshall, Common Sense Democrat

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

Josh Marshall has a great piece up on Talking Points Memo about the politics off Medicare for All. It is eminently sensible and covers well both the facts of the situation and the standard objections Medicare for All advocates raise when it is pointed out just how electorally difficult this program would make things for the Democrats. Point #6 of the Common Sense Democrat creed is: Don’t advocate clearly unpopular policies (if you want to win of course). Josh Marshall agrees!

Marshall’s piece is behind a paywall but it’s well worth seeking out if you are interested in this issue. But a few telling excerpts;

“In Democratic policy debates since 2016 there’s been a widespread and sometimes near dominant narrative that Medicare for All is the way forward and actually surprisingly popular…The problem is, the whole premise is false. A raft of public surveys show that Medicare for All has anything ranging from public support in the low 40s to dismal support down into the 20s. How is that reconcilable with all the polls showing that clear majorities support it? Like most political labels it’s not clear, beyond in an aspirational sense, what “Medicare for All” actually means. Survey after survey shows that when most people hear “Medicare for All” they assume something like a right for anyone who wanted it, regardless of age, to be able to get or buy into Medicare. Critically, most believe they and others would be able to keep their current private coverage if they chose to.

A new Marist poll illustrates the point, but it’s far from the only example. The poll asked Americans whether they supported “Medicare for all that want it, that is allow all Americans to choose between a national health insurance program or their own private health insurance.” 70% of adults thought that was a “good idea”.

When asked about “Medicare for all, that is a national health insurance program for all Americans that replaces private health insurance” the number fell to 41%. This isn’t an outlier. Numerous polls have shown roughly the same thing. A 2018 Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70.1% support and 51.9% support among self-identified Republicans. The numbers are actually remarkable consistent across many polls. Roughly 70% say they support Medicare for All, assuming that it means people can keep private policies. The numbers hover around 40% if they’re told that’s not true.

But just as consistently polls show that people assume Medicare for All means the option to opt into Medicare or keep their own private insurance. Much like the new Marist poll, a January 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 55% of adults believed Medicare for All would allow people to retain their private coverage if they chose. When told it would “eliminate private health insurance companies” that support collapses, going from slightly more than 70% to just 37%….

The reaction to these stark numbers from Medicare for All advocates has been telling and instructive. Of course, if you focus on perceived negatives or scare tactics, support falls! But this makes no sense. You can’t understand the popularity or political viability of a policy without figuring in counter-arguments that will certainly be used in the political arena. This is especially the case with counter-arguments which are actually true!

The secondary response has settled down to daring people to find anyone who likes their insurance company. Nobody likes their insurance company ergo these numbers can’t be true or don’t mean anything or don’t matter. It’s a pretty effective dare. Who raises their hand at a town hall meeting to give a big thumbs up to their health insurance company? Unfortunately that doesn’t really prove anything or at least what advocates what it to prove.

Here we have the kernel of magical thinking inspiring this whole debate: advocates belief that if something doesn’t make sense, it actually can’t be true. It’s certainly true that more or less everyone has complaints about their insurance company. And it’s hard to find people who affirmatively like or have some devotion to their insurance company since the whole system is a mess. But it simply doesn’t flow from that that people support doing away with private insurance or being forced to give up their current insurance. To pretend otherwise ignores basically everything we know about public risk aversion, especially tied to health care, and people’s perception that while what they currently may not be ideal something else might be worse. Call it relative privilege or advantage and people’s resistance to losing it….

He concludes:

“Of course, none of this means that people shouldn’t support Medicare for All or other comparable single player plans on the merits. A substantial minority of Americans do support it. Indeed, more practically, without a vibrant left supporting such a model the public debate is inevitably skewed to the right. A decade ago the legislative debate on Capitol Hill largely focused on whether or not what we now call Obamacare would include a “public option.” It failed because of stiff opposition from insurers and opposition from centrist Senate Democrats. Now that’s basically the centrist fallback position and Republicans running for office, as opposed to working the courts, have basically given up on gutting Obamacare. Indeed, ‘Medicare for America’, one of the major Medicare buy-in style plans proposed by wonks at the Center for American Progress, is as the name implies in large measure a reaction to the Medicare for All push. But that’s not what the proposal entitled “Medicare for All” actually does. It’s a single payer plan in which private health care plans would be prohibited except for supplemental plans which covers services or deductibles not covered by the standard plan.

There is every reason to believe that Medicare for All would be a major electoral liability for a Democratic presidential candidate in a general election – just on the basis of what the plan actually does, let alone the way the GOP and the health care industry writ large would pile on to that with a campaign of lies, horror stories and propaganda. It could well mean the difference between Trump’s defeat or reelection by effectively nullifying the Democrats big advantage on health care and giving the GOP a cudgel to sour a significant amount of the electorate on the Democratic candidate.”

Like Marshall, I get why people would be attracted to the Medicare for All idea. But I continue to be surprised at people’s willingness to ignore or try to explain away the clear evidence that the program would be a serious electoral liability. Sure it would be nice if that weren’t so. But it is.

Teixeira: Heed Ye the Lessons of 2018!

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

David Leonhardt’s column today, rightly in my view, approvingly notes a recent op-ed by Theda Skocpol in USA Today:

Theda Skocpol — the Harvard social scientist who has studied the Tea Party and the anti-Trump resistance, among many other things — has a new op-ed in USA Today that argues that the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are ignoring the lesson of 2018. By doing so, Skocpol says, they are increasing the chances that Trump will win re-election. As Democrats prepare for their second round of debates this week, I think Skocpol’s message is worth hearing.

“The first 2020 primary debates were a case in point,” she writes. “Thrilling as it was to see female contenders do well, the debates were chaotic and dominated by simplistic questions about topics of little concern to most Americans. The ostensible winners embraced ultra-left issue stands — like calls to abolish private insurance and give free health care to migrants — that would sink them in the general election.”

These stances may help Democrats run up even larger margins in blue states like California and New York. But the presidency isn’t decided by the popular vote. And two of the smartest election analysts — Nate Cohn of The Times and Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report — have both written pieces recently that explain how Trump could lose the popular vote by an even wider margin than he did in 2016, and still win re-election.

Skocpol writes: “U.S. politics is not a national contest. Victories in Congress, state politics and the Electoral College all depend on winning majorities or hefty pluralities in heartland states and areas that are not big cities. Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 mainly because she was whomped in non-urban areas where Obama had lost by far smaller margins.”

Skocpol concludes:

“In the United States, the road to national power does NOT run primarily through California, Massachusetts, or the TV studios of MSNBC in New York City. It runs through middle-American suburbs, cities and rural counties. To win in 2020 and beyond, Democrats have to organize everywhere and project a national message that resonates widely.”

Words of wisdom indeed.

Teixeira: Who Are the Persuadable White Working Class Voters?

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

Point #1 of my recent post on Common Sense Democrats was “Of course, Democrats need to reach persuadable white working class voters”. To which some might say, OK, but who are they? I have written about this myself from time to time but I want to refer you here to my old friend Andy Levison’s superb essay on just this subject, published on the Democratic Strategist site.

The essay starts out with some hypothetical ads about Trump’s character that might be aimed at white working class voters in the Rustbelt and then goes on to explain in some detail why this is the right approach to take. As Levison notes later on in his essay:

“Trump did indeed deeply disgust millions of college educated Americans who had previously voted Republican but at the same time the condescending tone of Hillary’s campaign reinforced Trump’s ability to project himself as an authentic, “no bullshit” champion of the white working class against the smug liberal elite. Hillary’s use of the word “deplorables” to describe many Trump supporters became a viral watchword among white working class voters because it seemed to so perfectly reflect the campaign’s implicit, and indeed at times explicitly condescending attitude toward white working class Americans.

In the view of many observers the intense desire of many white working class voters to “send a message” repudiating this kind of attitude played a major role in Trump’s victory in 2016. As Joan Williams vividly expressed the sentiment: “[white workers] voted with their middle finger.”

Given these obstacles, what strategies can Democrats reasonably consider for reducing Trump’s support among the nonracist sector of the white working class? The answer is a frontal, ‘No holds barred” attack on the specific aspects of Trump’s character that offend the decent and admirable moral values of white workers.”

Of course, for all too many progressives the very assertion that such “decent and admirable moral values” exist among this group may be hard to swallow. But it shouldn’t be. Consider Levision’s four defining characteristics of persuadable white working class voters. It should not be hard to see how thoroughly admirable values can be part of such voters’ makeup.

“1. They are not primarily motivated by racism

There is, of course, a very substantial group of white working class voters who are primarily attracted to Trump because of his racism and Democratic strategists are entirely correct in writing these voters off as entirely unreachable. As Trump has fanned the flames of racial prejudice in recent weeks the vision of all Trump supporters as vicious bigots who shout “send her back” at Trump’s rallies becomes difficult to resist.

But there are other white working people who voted for Trump in 2016 and yet who do not actually share his deep and bitter racial animosity. They do not think about race and prejudice in the same “liberal” way that Democrats and progressives do, for example by supporting Black Lives Matter or demanding the abolition of ICE. Instead they are more accurately visualized as practical, common–sense “live and let live” people who simply do not feel any strong, visceral antagonism toward minorities as a “front burner” political issue. They will, for example, generally agree that the Mexican border and illegal immigration should be controlled and that criminals should be severely punished but they do not consider race by itself to be a deeply emotional, vote-deciding issue.

This is the subgroup of voters that Democratic strategy can realistically target. They are the kinds of white working class voters who voted for Trump in 2016 but for Democratic candidates last November…..

2. They are cultural traditionalists

Cultural traditionalism is often confused with conservatism because people who are ideological conservatives very often uphold traditional cultural ideas. But cultural traditionalism is a distinct concept from conservatism, one that refers to a set of basic social values that exist in working-class life and not to specific social or political views. Within this set of basic traditional social values, various perspectives can exist, perspectives that can range from firmly conservative to strongly progressive.

There are three major traditional values in white working-class culture: respect for religious faith, respect for military service, and respect for the character traits encouraged by small business, honest labor, and hard work. Many workers with this set of values have nonetheless voted for Democrats in the past and can be convinced to do so again in the future.

3. They feel a profound class antagonism toward the “liberal” elite

Donald Trump, vile and dishonest as he may be, very successfully tapped into a deep mental and emotional perspective in white working-class life—a distinct kind of modern class consciousness, class resentment, and class antagonism that is almost entirely unacknowledged in current discussions regarding how to reach these voters, but which plays a critical role in their political thinking.

From the point of view of many white working-class Americans, society is indeed sharply divided between, on the one hand, “people like them,” and on the other hand three distinct and separate elites who in different ways are “screwing them over.”

The first group is the “political class….The second group is the Wall Street financial elite…But the third group is the “liberal” elite—the heterogeneous group of college professors and students, Hollywood actors and producers, music and fashion producers, and TV, newspaper, and magazine columnists and commentators….They are perceived as affluent urban dwellers who live in expensive, gentrified urban communities or charming college towns, who look down on ordinary working people…..

4. They are convinced that Democrats don’t give a damn about them while Trump sincerely identifies with them and cares about them.”

But of course he doesn’t. And that’s where his true vulnerability lies. If Democrats can convince these voters that it is Democrats, not Trump, who really gives a damn about them, they will make serious inroads on Trump’s support. In important ways, ti’s really that simple.

Teixeira: Common Sense Democrats – A Modest Proposal

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

Looking forward to 2020, Democrats have a lot of very important questions that can reasonably be debated, from the specific candidate to nominate to which issues to emphasize to the best campaign tactics. But there is a need for political common sense to undergird these debates. If polling, trend data, campaign history and/or electoral arithmetic make clear that certain approaches are minimum requirements for success, they should be front-loaded into the discussion. That way discussion can focus on what is truly important instead of endlessly relitigating questions that are essentially settled.

In other words, start with common sense and then build from there. There will still be plenty of room for debates between left and right in the party, but matters of common sense should be neither left nor right. They are simply what is and what anyone’s strategy, whatever their political leanings, must take into account.

Let’s call practitioners of this approach “Common Sense Democrats”. Here are 7 propositions Common Sense Democrats should agree on.

1. Of course, Democrats need to reach persuadable white working class voters. There is abundant evidence that such voters exist, that they were particularly important in the 2018 elections, that such voters have serious reservations about Trump and that they are central to a winning electoral coalition in Rustbelt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Shifts among such voters do not have to be large to be effective.

2. Of course, Democrats need to target the Rustbelt. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were the closest states in 2016, gave the Democrats big bounceback victories in 2018 and, of states Clinton did not win in 2016 currently give Trump the lowest approval ratings.

3. Of course, Democrats need to promote as high turnout as possible among supportive constituencies like nonwhites and younger voters. But evidence indicates that high turnout is not a panacea and cannot be substituted for persuasion efforts.

4. Of course, Democrats need to compete strongly in southern and southwestern swing states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Recent election results, trend data and Trump approval ratings all indicate that these states are accessible to Democrats though less so than the key Rustbelt states. As such, they form a necessary complement to Rustbelt efforts but not a substitute.

5. Of course, Democrats need to run on more than denouncing Trump and Trump’s racism. One lesson of the 2016 campaign is that it is not enough to “call out’ Trump for having detestable views. That did not work then and it is not likely to work now. Democrats’ 2018 successes were based on far more than that, effectively employing issue contrasts that disadvantaged the GOP. Trump will be happy to have a unending conversation about “the squad” and those who denounce his denunciations. Don’t let him.

6. Of course, Democrats should not run against Trump with positions that are unambiguously unpopular. These include, but are not limited to, abolishing ICE, reparations, abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing the border. Whatever merits such ideas may have as policy–and these are generally debatable–there is strong evidence that they are quite unpopular with most voters and therefore will operate as a drag on the Democratic nominee.

7. Of course, Democrats should focus on what will maximize their probability of beating Trump. By this I mean there are plenty of strategies that have some chance of beating Trump–if such and such happens, if such and such goes right. You can always tell a story. But the important thing is: what maximizes your chance of victory, given what we know about political trends and the current state of public opinion. In this election, we can afford nothing less.

Common Sense Democrats. Go forth and multiply.