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Teixeira: The Return of Political Realism

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

As it becomes ever clearer that the Biden presidency never had the transformational potential assigned to it by many Democrats in and out of the administration, it is perhaps time to cast comforting illusions aside and look clear-eyed at political reality.

Two articles today are helpful. Nate Cohn looks at the non-FDRness of Biden’s time and Biden’s actions:

“Joseph R. Biden Jr. was supposed to be another Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president who enacted transformative liberal legislation and in doing so built a lasting political coalition….

Rather than following Mr. Roosevelt’s playbook and focusing relentlessly on the crises facing the nation and voters, Mr. Biden’s efforts have shifted from the pandemic and the economy to also pursue longstanding Democratic policy goals — universal prekindergarten, climate change, voting rights, a child tax credit.

Even if those proposals are needed or important, they do not rank high on the list of the public’s demands at the heart of a pandemic and with rising inflation. Only 33 percent of voters say the president is focused on the issues they “care a lot about,” according to a recent CBS/YouGov poll.

The decision to prioritize the goals of his party’s activist base over the issues prioritized by voters is more reminiscent of the last half-century of politically unsuccessful Democratic presidents than of Mr. Roosevelt himself….

It is a presidency aimed at matching Mr. Roosevelt’s transformative legacy while forgetting the most basic, high school history class lesson about the root of the New Deal’s political appeal: It was designed to meet the challenges of the moment.

While liberals cherish the New Deal for expanding the role of government, the core of its political success was its focus on addressing an immediate crisis facing the nation — the shuttered banks, failing farms and mass unemployment of the Great Depression.”

Matt Yglesias has some ideas about what a more realistic approach might be at this point for the Democrats:

“For Mr. Biden and his team to give Democrats a fighting chance and turn his numbers around before electoral disaster strikes, they need to keep two slightly paradoxical thoughts in mind. First, Mr. Biden is governing in extraordinary times, but his presidency is still governed by the normal rules of American politics. Second, generating a feeling of normalcy around American politics and daily life — as he promised to do during the campaign — would itself be a transformative change….

Yet even when it turned out that the [pre-election] polls were off and his victory was much narrower than expected, Mr. Biden never really let go of the dream of a transformative 1930s-style presidency, though he clearly lacked the large legislative majorities to deliver on a New Deal or Great Society….

When all is said and done, the frustrations of the Biden supporters who want a return to normal are more politically significant than those of the more progressive crowd who yearn for transformation.

That means more focus on the short-term economic situation. The good news on inflation is that the gasoline price spike of 2021 is unlikely to occur a second time, and the Federal Reserve is likely to pivot into inflation-fighting mode as well. But there are risks, too, from economic disruptions in China, and monetary policy efforts to curb inflation could do too much to curb real growth as well.

The fate of Mr. Biden’s presidency — and if you believe the dire warnings of many Democrats and academics, of the republic itself — hinges less on the fate of legacy items like Build Back Better or a renewed voting rights act than it does on the normal procession of macroeconomic events. Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, no president has control over them entirely — but pushing for a final version of the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which contains provisions to strengthen the semiconductor supply chain, could be helpful.

It means more attention to classic Biden themes of patriotism, bipartisanship and normalcy, and fewer headlines dominated by high-profile squeeze plays against moderate senators.

Most of what has happened to Mr. Biden has been very normal. But if Democrats take their own fears about the opposition party seriously, they should be very worried about the consequences of the normal cycle of overreach and backlash, and try harder to surprise the country by doubling down on normalcy.”

It all reminds me of something I wrote at the beginning of the year in one of my first contributions to The Liberal Patriot:

“Biden got 51 percent of the vote in 2020, enough to win the election, but hardly a dominant majority. And Democrats’ downballot performance was distinctly inferior, leading to disappointing performance in Senate, House and state legislative races. The Biden administration now confronts a divided country racked by twin pandemic and economic crises. In the not so far distance looms the 2022 midterm elections where an incoming Presidential administration traditionally loses ground. The last time Democrats faced this situation in 2010 they suffered massive losses….

[Democratic success] can only run through a successful attack on the pandemic and economic crises. Really for the next period of time nothing else is important. Not immigration reform. Not criminal justice reform. Not climate change. Not child poverty. Not executive orders. Not Trump’s trial. Either solve the twin crises or prepare yourself for the wrath of voters who will, not unreasonably, think you have failed them. The Biden coalition will shrink, not expand and all the great ideas progressives have for improving the country will come to naught.”

In retrospect, it appears I might have been on to something.


Dionne: How Biden Can Turn His Presidency Around

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Biden’s road back: Asking Republicans ‘What are they for?’”: 

With the president’s approval ratings languishing, the first anniversary of his inauguration has turned into a Rorschach test for partisans and commentators. Advice on how to turn his presidency around bears an uncanny resemblance to the preexisting views of those offering their counsel….With 6.2 million jobs created on his watch, the unemployment rate is at 3.9 percent, far lower than anyone anticipated when he took office. Gross domestic product is up and workers have more bargaining power than they’ve enjoyed in decades.” Further, “Nearly 210 million Americans are fully vaccinated, as Biden noted, through more than a half-billion shots. With very narrow congressional majorities, Biden secured his $1.9 trillion economic relief package and a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. It’s a good record. The problem is that much of this occurred in the first part of Biden’s opening year. His approval ratings then, a healthy 50 percent or better,, reflected this.”

Dionne notes some of the reasons for the decline in Biden’s approval figures, and writes, “He needs to focus incessantly on the virus and inflation — twin challenges that are top of mind for most Americans. Biden clearly knows this, which is why he spoke at length on Wednesday about how his administration has made testing widely available through an easy-to-use website and is boosting access to high-quality N95 masks. Going forward, he needs to settle on a strategy that reaches toward as much normality as is consistent with the virus threat, and he needs to put an end to confusing messaging from various parts of the government. Neither will be easy….On inflation, he needs highly visible efforts to unsnarl the supply chain. One idea: Create a task force on these issues. Possible members: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Have them report publicly every week on concrete steps the administration is taking to fix the problems.

But as progressives insist, Biden also needs to resolve the core contradiction of his presidency — between his longing to be the great unifier and his desire to do big things Republicans were bound to oppose. Not, mind you, radical things. Simply helping Americans on health care, child care, education and relief for our ailing planet….And on the biggest struggle of this generation, the battle for voting rights and democracy, Trumpified Republicans are plainly committed to giving the states they run free rein to suppress votes and subvert elections….Democrats need to enact whatever they can of the Build Back Better legislation and then move on to passing pieces of what’s left individually, if only to force the question Biden asked of Republicans at his news conference: “What are they for?” And whatever happens the next few days on voting rights, they cannot walk away from the struggle — in Washington or in the states.”

Dionne concludes, “Biden’s task is to combine effective, visible engagement on the front-burner problems with a determined effort to raise the stakes in our politics. Americans need to come to terms with the radicalism of the Republican Party and its attacks on our democracy. If the president can make progress on the first imperative, he’ll earn the nation’s attention on the second.”


Dems Embrace ‘Show and Tell’ Strategy on Voting Rights Reform

At msnbc.com, Ja’Han Jones explains “Why Democrats are reverting to a ‘show and tell’ strategy on voting rights“:

Democrats aren’t banking on the long shot that any senators — Democratic or Republican — will change their minds and suddenly support voting rights bills or back rule changes to pass voting rights legislation. Instead, they’re using this week’s debate to try to show voters the depths of conservative obstructionism and the GOP’s opposition to democracy. Then, they’re hoping to use that exposure to hammer voting rights legislation opponents and mount a public pressure campaign that either sways Sinema and Manchin, if and when the bill is reintroduced in the future, or inspires enough voter outrage to prevent Republicans from reclaiming the Senate in the fall.

That strategy is unlikely to move progressive activists, many of whom are demanding substantive voter protections by any means necessary.

Regardless, you can hear Democrats beginning to embrace the show-and-tell strategy as they talk about the importance of getting senators’ voting rights stances on the record.

….During “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said this week’s votes are needed because “we need to know who is with us and who is not, so we will know how to conduct ourselves going forward.”….”We operate now in the blind. Let’s have these votes. Let people have this debate. And let’s see where we stand, so we will know how to conduct ourselves,” the majority whip added.”

However, Lisa Hagen notes at US News: “That failed motion will trigger a debate and vote on a rules change. Senate Democrats met Tuesday evening to discuss the path forward and see if they can agree to a rules reform by using the “nuclear option.” Rules changes need 67 votes – which the party doesn’t have – and going nuclear will allow them to do so with a simple majority. As of now, Democrats don’t have all 50 of their senators behind any option.”

Mitch McConnell will tap a range of parliamentary gizmos to try and foil every Democratic tactic to advance voting rights reform. But it is McConnell’s ‘unified front’ against voting rights that has forced Democrats to embrace re-establishing the talking filibuster. There’s no denying that a defeat on voting rights would be a major blow to Democrats. But, if their ‘show and tell’ strategy convincingly portrays the Republicans as the real obstructionists of bipartisan democracy in the months ahead, it could help Dems in November.

Beyond short-range tactics for the midterm elections, Dems should be working harder than ever on longer-range strategies, including: improve candidate recruitment; mobilize a larger African American turnout; accelerate outreach to working-class voters of all races and more aggressively discredit the GOP ‘brand.’ But Dems should also develop more creative ideas to strengthen Democratic state and local parties, particularly in swing states and swing districts; toughen up party discipline; energize lobbying of elected officials; and identify and connect with moderate and persuadable voters. Formidable challenges, yes. But improvement in any of these areas would be welcome.


Teixeira: We Need a Politics of Abundance!

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

I quite liked this piece by Derek Thompson on the Atlantic site. He’s singing my song!

“Zoom out, and you can see that scarcity has been the story of the whole pandemic response. In early 2020, Americans were told to not wear masks, because we apparently didn’t have enough to go around. Last year, Americans were told to not get booster shots, because we apparently didn’t have enough to go around. Today, we’re worried about people using too many COVID tests as cases scream past 700,000 per day, because we apparently don’t have enough to go around….

Zoom out yet more, and the truly big picture comes into focus. Manufactured scarcity isn’t just the story of COVID tests, or the pandemic, or the economy: It’s the story of America today. The revolution in communications technology has made it easier than ever for ordinary people to loudly identify the problems that they see in the world. But this age of bits-enabled protest has coincided with a slowdown in atoms-related progress.

Altogether, America has too much venting and not enough inventing. We say that we want to save the planet from climate change—but in practice, many Americans are basically dead set against the clean-energy revolution, with even liberal states shutting down zero-carbon nuclear plants and protesting solar-power projects. We say that housing is a human right—but our richest cities have made it excruciatingly difficult to build new houses, infrastructure, or megaprojects. Politicians say that they want better health care—but they tolerate a catastrophically slow-footed FDA‪ that withholds promising tools, and a federal policy that deliberately limits the supply of physicians.

In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.”

This reminds me of some of the themes in my recent essay on The Five Deadly Sins of the American Left:

“The final deadly sin I discussed in my essay was technopessimism. I observed that:

[M]any on the left tend to regard technological change with dread rather than hope. They see technology as a force facilitating inequality rather than growth, destroying jobs rather than leading to skilled-job creation, turning consumers into corporate pawns rather than information-savvy citizens, and destroying the planet in the process. We are far, far away from the left’s traditional attitude, which welcomed technological change as the handmaiden of abundance and increased leisure, or, for that matter, from the liberal optimism that permeated the culture of the 1950s and ‘60s with tantalizing visions of flying cars and obedient robots.

The passage of a year and a change in presidential administration does not seem to have altered this attitude much. There remains a distinct lack of optimism on the left that a rapid advance and application of technology can produce an abundant future. But there is an endless supply of discussion about a dystopian future that may await us thanks to AI and other technologies. This is odd, given that almost everything ordinary people like about the modern world, including relatively high living standards, is traceable to technological advances and the knowledge embedded in those advances. From smart phones, flat-screen TVs, and the internet, to air and auto travel, to central heating and air conditioning, to the medical devices and drugs that cure disease and extend life, to electric lights and the mundane flush toilet, technology has dramatically transformed people’s lives for the better. It is difficult to argue that the average person today is not far, far better off than her counterpart in the past. As the Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr puts it, “The good old days were old but not good.”

Doesn’t the left want to make people happy? One has to wonder. There seems to be more interest in figuring out what people should stop doing and consuming than in figuring out how people can have more to do and consume. The very idea of abundance is rarely discussed, except to disparage it.

These attitudes help explain why the left does not tend to feature technological advance prominently in its policy portfolio. The Biden administration did manage to get the U.S. Competiveness and Innovation Act through the Senate (it has yet to pass the House) but with far less funding and far less probable impact on scientific innovation than it had when it was the Endless Frontier Act. But nobody on the left seemed to mind very much since it just wasn’t very high on their priority list.

You can also see this in the rather modest amount of attention and resources devoted to technological advance in the Democrats’ other bills. The bipartisan infrastructure bill did contain some money for developing next generation energy technologies like clean hydrogen, carbon capture, and advanced nuclear, but the amount was comparatively modest. The clean energy money in the last version of the Build Back Better bill, now shelved, was mostly focused on speeding up deployment of wind, solar, and electric vehicles.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that the left thinks about the clean energy future in a dreamy, fuzzy way as entirely driven by all-natural wind and solar power. But if there is to be a clean energy future, especially on the rapid timetables envisioned by most on the left, it will depend on our ability to develop the requisite technologies—not all wind and solar—quickly. Here is an area, perhaps more than any other, where the left’s technopessimism does not serve it well.

In the end, most of what the left says it wants to accomplish depends on rapid technological advances. That would seem to call for techno-optimism rather than the current jaundiced attitude toward the potential of technology.”


New Poll Shows Voters Narrowly Favor Filibuster Carve-Out for Voter Protection

Kaia Hubbard writes at usnews.com:

“Voters are split on their attitudes toward the filibuster, which has in recent months been at the center of a debate over stalled voting rights efforts in the Senate….The rule, which allows the minority party to block the majority party’s legislative priorities by effectively requiring a supermajority of senators to agree to allow a final vote, is supported by about 42% of voters, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll conducted Jan. 8-9. Another 30% of voters disagree with the rule, the survey says. And a similar share of voters, 28%, said they do not know enough about or have no opinion on the filibuster at all.”  However, “When asked about changing the filibuster rule in order to pass voting rights legislation, respondents were even more split than on the filibuster generally, with 37% supporting the move, while 36% opposed a change to the rule and 27% took no position.”

Some other findings from the Morning Consult Poll:

Asked, “If the election for U.S. Congress in your district was held today, which one of the following candidates are you most likely to vote for?,” 44 percent of the respondents said they would support the Democratic congressional candidate, compared to 41 percent for Republicans and 15 percent said they had no opinion or didn’t know.

Asked, “Which of the following would you say was a greater violation of the U.S. Constitution?,” 47 percent cited “The January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol”; 22 percent cited “The 2020 U.S. presidential election”; 15 percent said “Both equally violated the U.S. Constitution”; and 8 percent said they “don’t know” or had “no opinion.”

In adition, 61 percent of respondents supported “making Election Day a federal holiday,” while 56 percent supported “same-day voter regostration,” 55 percent supported expanding access to both “early voting” and “voting by mail.” (provisions of the Freedom to Vote Act).

As for “Favorability for Republicans in Congress,” 39 percent responded ‘favorable,’ while 53 percent said ‘unfavorable.’ For Democrats, the figures were 40 percent ‘favorable,’ with 53 percent ‘unfavorable.’


President Biden: Voting Rights Bills Needed to Protect Democracy

This is the text of President Biden’s speech on protecting the right to vote yesterday in Atlanta at a  consortium of four historically Black colleges and universities:

THE PRESIDENT:  In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.

In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.

Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.

We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spelman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.  (Applause.)

We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.

In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.

They [Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.

Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.

But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

They failed.  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s — but democracy’s visi- — victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.

That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.


Teixeira: Oddly Enough, If You Want to Win, Nobody Has To Be Thrown Under the Bus

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

But you may have to change what you talk about and how you talk about it. That’s the message of Sheri Berman’s excellent new article on the Social Europe site. I would go so far as to say Democrats will either absorb this message or their future does not look particularly bright. Berman:

“Over the past months in the United States, something resembling panic has overtaken the Democratic Party. The popularity of the president, Joe Biden, is extremely low, major policy initiatives have stalled, a governorship election in supposedly solidly Democratic Virginia was lost and significant setbacks are likely in the upcoming Congressional midterms.

For many Democrat ‘progressives’, the blame lies in the stars rather than in themselves. Republican success, in this view, is due to a combination of ‘anti-black white supremacy’ and structural features of the US political system, such as the presidential electoral college and the Senate, which favour regions and populations that do not support the party. For ‘centrist’ Democrats, on the other hand, the real problem lies in the party itself—or, rather, in its progressive wing insisting on championing issues of racial or social justice with ‘views and values not shared’ by a majority of voters.

There is much that is distinctively American about this debate but echoes can be found in left parties across Europe. In particular, the challenge of reconciling a progressive social and racial agenda with the need to attract a majority coalition, which includes non-urban and working-class voters, is one faced on both sides of the Atlantic today.

Centrists and progressives often portray these goals as irreconcilable: either left parties champion progressive social and racial agendas or they attract more non-urban and working-class voters. Yet they need not be.

As the political scientist William Riker famously argued, to borrow his book titles, political outcomes depend on The Art of Political Manipulation and Agenda Formation. ‘Successful politicians structure the world so they can win,’ he wrote. Concretely, how issues are framed plays a critical role in determining how attractive and salient they are to voters.

A recent study of working-class voters sponsored by YouGov, the Center for Working Class Politics and the left-wing magazine Jacobin confirms what many previous studies have found: when policies are framed as benefiting one group over, or at the expense of, another, they are less popular. For example, when white voters are told that redistributive policies require taking money from them to fund programmes primarily benefiting minorities, support for such policies plummets. When precisely the same policies are presented as taking money from the rich and redistributing it to working people or the less fortunate, support goes up.

This is often portrayed as the result of racism—and, of course, some white voters harbour racist sentiments. But minority voters prefer colour-blind or class-based issue framing as well. As two well-known scholars put it, ‘the strongest arguments’ for redistributive policies are those that ‘reach beyond race to the moral principles to which both black and white Americans are committed, not as blacks or whites, but as Americans … Reaching beyond race has a power to it, not because it evades the reach of prejudice but because it calls into play the principle of fairness—that all who need help should be helped, regardless of their race.’”

Read the whole article. It’s worth your time.


Schiff: Democracy is on the Midterm Ballot

An excerpt from “A year after the Capitol attack, democracy itself is on every ballot,” a Los Angeles Times article by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28), a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol:

In the hours and days after the insurrection, it seemed like the GOP leadership might finally come to grips with what President Trump had wrought with his big lie about massive election fraud.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy acknowledged. For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Senate, “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

And for a brief moment, we had a chance to turn the corner on a disastrous period of our nation’s history. We had a chance to repudiate the immoral grifter who led our country for four years, and weaponized people’s worst fears and anxieties to the point of violence against our capitol. We had a chance to turn back from one party’s grim flirtation with authoritarianism. We had a chance to move forward, still fragmented, but together as a country and a democracy.

And then, just like that, the opportunity was gone. Fingers to the wind, McCarthy, McConnell and state and local GOP leaders decided that Donald Trump really could, if not shoot someone in the middle of the street with impunity, at least incite a violent attack on our democracy and retain the support of his base. Lacking the courage of their convictions, guided by nothing more than their ambition to regain power, the GOP leadership buckled again to the former president.

Doubling down on Trump’s big lie, GOP officials used it to usher in a new generation of Jim Crow laws around the country, bent on disenfranchising people of color. Equally insidious, they have used false claims of voter fraud to strip independent election officials of their duties and given those duties over to partisan legislatures; they’ve run technocratic local election officials out of town, often with death threats.

The lesson Trump and his enablers seemed to have learned from their failure to overturn President Biden’s election appears to be this: If they couldn’t get the Georgia secretary of state to “find” 11,780 votes that didn’t exist in 2020, they will make sure to have someone in that position and others in 2024 who will.

They will prevent people from voting if they can. If that does not succeed, they will prepare the ground to overturn the next election. Never, in our lifetimes, has the threat to our democracy been so grave. We thought democracy to be inexorable. We were wrong.

Democracies do not always die by violent overthrow. More often, they die through atrophy, through the slow degradation of institutions, through the use of democratic means to bring on authoritarian ends. This is the model that Hungarian Prime Minister — and wannabe dictator — Viktor Orban has used to march his country toward autocracy, and it is the model that Republican thought leaders, like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, admire and promote.

It is not too late to save our founders’ cherished legacy — a government of, by and for the people. There is no simple legislative solution to our present predicament, and our best statutory protections are stymied by the slavish devotion of senators to an archaic Senate custom — the filibuster. If the last four years have shown us anything, not even the Constitution can protect our democracy if the men and women sworn to uphold it will not live up to their oaths.

What is required on the anniversary of Jan. 6 is nothing less than a national awakening, and a national movement to save our democracy. We must rally around our local officials — Republicans as well as Democrats — who put the sanctity of our elections first. We must resist, and if necessary, overcome, any new impediments to voting. In each and every election to come, we must act as if democracy itself were on the ballot, for surely, it is.

There is no single remedy that can prevent the theft of the next election. But three essential elements of “a national movement to save our democracy” include enactment of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, combined with an unprecedented mobilization of pro-Democratic voters leading up to the midterm elections.


Wasserman: Dems Need Uptick in Biden Approvals, Breaks in Swing States to Hold House Majority

In his article, “2022 House Overview: Still a GOP Advantage, but Redistricting Looks Like a Wash,” at The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman writes:

The surprising good news for Democrats: on the current trajectory, there will be a few more Biden-won districts after redistricting than there are now — producing a congressional map slightly less biased in the GOP’s favor than the last decade’s. The bad news for Democrats: if President Biden’s approval ratings are still mired in the low-to-mid 40s in November, that won’t be enough to save their razor-thin House majority (currently 221 to 212 seats).

The start of 2022 is an ideal time to take stock of the nation’s cartographic makeover. New district lines are either complete or are awaiting certification in 34 states totaling 293 seats — more than two-thirds of the House (this includes the six states with only one seat).

Cook Political Report with Amy Walter analysis finds that in the completed states, Biden would have carried 161 of 293 districts over Donald Trump in 2020, an uptick from 157 of 292 districts in those states under the current lines (nationwide, Biden carried 224 of 435 seats). And if Democrats were to aggressively gerrymander New York or courts strike down GOP-drawn maps in North Carolina and/or Ohio, the outlook would get even better for Democrats.

However, the partisan distribution of seats before/after redistricting is only one way to gauge the process. Because Democrats currently possess the lion’s share of marginal seats, estimating the practical effect of new lines in 2022 still points towards a wash or a slight GOP gain.

Wasserman notes further that “so far Republicans have only gone on offense in GeorgiaNorth Carolina and Ohio — all of which face court scrutiny.” Also,

Meanwhile, Democrats unabashedly gerrymandered IllinoisNew Mexico and Oregon. They scored highly favorable maps from commissions in California and New Jersey, and to a lesser extent Michigan. Republicans’ only mild commission “wins?” Arizona and Montana. And five states where the GOP had exclusive authority back in 2011 — Louisiana, Michigan, PennsylvaniaVirginia and Wisconsin — are now under split or commission control.

Even though Biden carried 224 of 435 seats in 2020, the current House map has a slight pro-GOP bias: the median district, held by Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14), voted for Biden by 2.4 points, two points to the right of his 4.4 point national popular vote margin. Nationally, according to the PVI, there are 230 districts that lean more Republican than the nation as a whole, compared to 205 districts that lean more Democratic.

So far, completed states look surprisingly rosy for Democrats. There are 15 seats that have “flipped” from GOP-leaning to Democratic-leaning: CA-13, CA-45, GA-07, IL-13, IL-14, IL-17, MI-03, MI-11, NV-03, NJ-03, NJ-05, NJ-11, NM-02, OR-04 and VA-07. By contrast, there are only nine seats that have “flipped” the other way: AZ-06, CA-40, GA-06, MI-08, MI-10, NJ-07, NC-02, NC-07 and OH-09. That’s a net gain of six Democratic-leaning seats.

‘However,” Wasserman adds, ” the oldest rule in the book is that you can’t gain a seat you already hold. Looking under the hood, Democrats already hold 11 of the 15 “newly Democratic-leaning” seats, meaning only four are pickup opportunities. By contrast, Republicans only hold one of the nine “newly GOP-leaning” seats, giving them eight map-enhanced pickup opportunities – twice as many as Democrats. At least in 2022, that’s a GOP advantage.”

Wasserman notes, “It’s still too early to render a final verdict on redistricting. There are still 16 states that aren’t complete (or near-complete), not counting the handful of states with high-stakes litigation pending. Republicans could still target Democratic seats in FloridaTennessee and New Hampshire, and far less likely in KansasKentucky and Missouri. Democrats could offset all of that in New York.” He warns, “Some of the narrowly Biden-won new seats where Democrats are especially vulnerable are AZ-06, IL-17, MI-07, MI-08, NV-01, NV-03, NV-04, NJ-07, NC-02, VA-02, VA-07 and WA-08. And, this list is certain to expand as more states finish maps….Adding to Democrats’ challenge: retirements. At this writing, there are 24 Democrats not seeking reelection in 2022, including 11 from potentially vulnerable districts. The retirements of Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)Cheri Bustos (IL-17)G.K. Butterfield (NC-02) and Ron Kind (WI-03) are the most problematic. By contrast, there are only 11 Republicans heading for the exits, none of whom were truly vulnerable under their current lines.”

In his concluding paragraphs, Wasserman explains, “Democrats began the cycle with virtually no margin for error, and the drag from Biden’s disapproval – inextricably linked to retirements and GOP recruitment/fundraising — long ago overtook redistricting as the leading threat to Democrats’ majority. Their only hope of holding on involves not only key map battles in New York, North Carolina and Ohio breaking their way but the president’s approval rating rebounding much closer to 50 percent.”


Teixeira: New Year’s Resolution – Let’s Stop Pretending the Democratic Party Doesn’t Need a Rebrand

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

Lauren Gambino at the Guardian has an article about Republican plans for 2022 and different Democratic party strategies for countering them. She quotes the following from one influential wing of the party:

“It’s the oldest trick in the book,” said Anat Shenker-Osorio, a messaging expert and host of Words To Win By. “It’s creating some sort of an ‘other’ so that we don’t notice that they’re actually the cause of our problems.”

In Virginia and elsewhere, she said Democrats were caught “flat-footed” by concerns over critical race theory, a concept that, until recently, few outside of academia had ever heard of. Instead of confronting it, she said Democrats’ instinct was to deny support and dismiss the charge as a right-wing talking point, neither of which satisfied voters.

Democrats need “an explanation for the rightwing’s origin story of ‘this is why you’re suffering white man in the post-industrial midwest’,” Shenker-Osorio said. “Unless we can talk about race, about gender, about gender identity, our economic promise isn’t going to land.”

This seems certifiable to me but I guess YMMV. On the other hand Gambino notes an alternative perspective.

“An increasingly vocal coterie of liberal critics believe ….that Democrats are staring into the political wilderness unless they are able to win back some of the non-college educated voters who abandoned the party.

Ruy Teixeira, a demographer and election analyst, believes Democrats have moved too far left on social issues like crime and immigration and is in need of a complete rebrand. He said Trump’s gains with non-college educated Hispanic voters was a “real wake-up call” that Democrats need to change course.

“We need a durable majority,” he said. “You can’t build a durable majority by ignoring socio-cultural concerns and the values of these huge swaths of the population.”
Where Democrats agree is that they must deliver on their promises while in power.

“We’re really just at the beginning of what needs to be a substantial change in the way the American economic model works,” Teixeira said. “And to do that, it’s not enough to just win one election and pass some stuff. We need to win a number of elections and pass even more stuff … It’s not much more complicated than that.”

Whoever this guy Teixeira is, I think he’s onto something. I also like what Freddie deBoer has to say about the need for a profound attitude adjustment on the part of the American center-left:

“Sometimes I get people asking me why I don’t write more criticism of Republicans and conservatives. I’ve made the basic point many times before: those with influence within the conservative movement are too craven or crazy for meaningful written engagement to be worth anything, and those who are interesting and honest have no influence within the conservative movement. You can engage with Ross Douthat, who’s sharp and fair but who the average conservative would call a RINO or you can engage with a roster of interchangeable lunatics who lie and dissemble in defense of a cruel revanchist movement. I tend to train my fire on the broad left of center because, as much as I would sometimes like to wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them, they are the half of American politics that could actually reform, that could improve. I see no positive outcome from going through Breitbart posts and pointing out the lies. But [Chris] Hayes, and other liberal Democrats who grumble and groan about left on liberal criticism, seem to think that if we just keep talking about how awful Josh Hawley and the Proud Boys are, somehow these problems will all sort themselves out.

They won’t. If you’re obsessed with defeating Trumpism, you should realize that you can only do that through securing a broad multicultural coalition, and you can’t do that when you’re alienating Hispanic voters or failing to challenge people in your political orbit when they insist that white children should be taught that they’re inherently and irreversibly racist. 70% of this country is white, Hispanic voters are not remotely as left-leaning as people assumed, immigrants are far from uniformly progressive, women were never actually a liberal stronghold, and you can’t win national elections by appealing only to the kinds of people who say “Black bodies” instead of “Black people.” This is the simple point David Shor has made for over a year, and for his trouble he gets a columnist in the Nation flat-out lying about him. Imagine a political tendency where popularism – literally, the idea that you should do things that appeal to voters – is immensely controversial. Liberalism is not healthy.”

DeBoer goes on to quote Democratic ex-Senator Harry Reid, who, when asked what message he wanted to leave with America, answered “I want everybody in America to understand that if Harry Reid can make it, anybody can.” In regard to this deBoer comments:

“Does that sound anything like the message American liberalism wants to deliver now? Absolutely not. Today, American liberalism wants to tell you not that America can be a place of justice and equality where we all work together for the good of all, even as we acknowledge how badly we’ve failed that ideal. In 2021 liberalism wants to tell you that the whole damn American project is toxic and ugly, that every element of the country is an excuse to perpetuate racism, that those groups of people Hayes lists at the bottom are not in any sense in it together but that instead some fall higher on an hierarchy of suffering, with those who are perceived to have it too good in that hierarchy deserving no help from liberalism or government or the Democratic party – and, oh by the way, you can be dirt poor and powerless and still be privileged, so we don’t want you, especially if you’re part of the single largest chunk of the American electorate. Anyone who tows the line [sic] Harry Reid takes here is either a bigot or a sap, and politics is a zero-sum game where marginalized groups can only get ahead if others suffer, and Democrats fight to control a filthy, ugly, fallen country that will forever be defined by its sins. That’s the liberalism of 2021, a movement of unrelenting pessimism, obscure vocabulary, elitist tastes, and cultural and social extremism totally divorced from a vision of shared prosperity and a working class movement that comes together across difference for the good of all. In fact, I think I learned in my sociology class at Dartmouth that a working class movement would inherently center white pain! Better to remain divided into perpetually warring fiefdoms of grievance that can accomplish nothing. Purer that way. Now here’s Chris with part 479 of his January 6th series, to show us the country’s biggest problems.

Conservatives run roughshod over the country, and liberals are powerless to stop them, because liberalism has been colonized by a bizarre set of fringe cultural ideas about race and gender which they express in abstruse and alienating vocabulary at every turn. If anyone complains, liberals call them racist or sexist or transphobic, even when those complaining are saying that we can fight racism and sexism and transphobia more effectively by stressing shared humanity and the common good. Republicans tell the American people batshit conspiracy theories about communists teaching Yakub theory in kindergarten; Democrats fight back by making PowerPoint slides about why resegregating public schools is intersectional. We have reactionary insanity that expresses itself in plain, brute language and an opposition that insists that most voters don’t actually have any real problems, using a vocabulary that should never have escaped the conference rooms of whatever nonprofit hell it crawled out of. I cannot imagine a more obvious mismatch, the gleeful conspiracist bloodletting of the right against the sneering disdain and incomprehensible jargon of the left. I wonder who’ll win politically, an army of racist car dealership owners who have already taken over vast swaths of America’s state and local governments, keening for blood and soil? Or the guy in your anthropology seminar who insisted they were the voice of social justice while simultaneously making every conversation all about them?”

So, Happy New Year y’all. Let’s see if we can make some progress toward a saner left in 2022.