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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Enough with the Robots – They’re Not the Problem

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

The allegation that robots are going to put huge chunks of the workforce on the unemployment line got a workout at the latest Democratic debate. As Paul Krugman noted, the Democratic candidates mostly gave terrible answers because they buy into this story about our economic trajectory–an assumption that is not remotely justified.

“[CNN moderator Erin] Burnett declared that a recent study shows that “about a quarter of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in just the next 10 years.” What the study actually says is less alarming: It finds that a quarter of U.S. jobs will face “high exposure to automation over the next several decades.”

But if you think even that sounds bad, ask yourself the following question: When, in modern history, has something like that statement not been true?

After all, in the late 1940s America had about seven million farmers and around 12 million production workers in manufacturing. Machinery could and did take over much of the work those Americans were doing — and people at the time wondered where the new jobs would come from. If you think that concerns about automation are somehow new, bear in mind that Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Player Piano,” envisioning a dystopian future in which machines have taken away all the jobs, was published in … 1952.

Yet the generation that followed was a golden age for American workers, who saw dramatic increases in their income, with many entering a rapidly growing middle class.

You might say that this time is different, because the pace of technological change is so much faster. But that’s not what the data say. On the contrary, worker productivity — which is how we measure the extent to which workers are being replaced by machines — has lately been growing much more slowly than in the past; it rose less than half as much from 2007 to 2018 as it did over the previous 11 years.” (See chart below)

So whose game are we playing when we buy into this robots-will-take-all-our-jobs hysteria? Krugman has an answer and I believe he is correct.

“So what’s with the fixation on automation? It may be inevitable that many tech guys like Yang believe that what they and their friends are doing is epochal, unprecedented and changes everything, even if history begs to differ. But more broadly, as I’ve argued in the past, for a significant part of the political and media establishment, robot-talk — i.e., technological determinism — is in effect a diversionary tactic.

That is, blaming robots for our problems is both an easy way to sound trendy and forward-looking (hence Biden talking about the fourth industrial revolution) and an excuse for not supporting policies that would address the real causes of weak growth and soaring inequality.

So harping on the dangers of automation, while it may sound tough-minded, is in practice a sort of escapist fantasy for centrists who don’t want to confront truly hard questions.”

Amen. What Democrats should be talking about instead of promoting scare stories about robots is something quite different–an actual program for promoting faster economic growth, which we are not getting and which we desperately need. Matt Yglesias:

“The simple fact of the matter is that productivity growth has been slow in recent years, in both the United States and other advanced countries. If the pace of automation were speeding up, you’d expect to see the opposite — output per hour worked would soar in response to the deployment of all the new technology.

And not only has growth productivity been slow, it keeps turning out to be slower than previous forecasts had expected — forcing the Congressional Budget Office to continually reduce its forecasts.

Seen through this lens, the striking thing about automation in the contemporary United States is how little of it there is…..

The result is slow growth in the overall economy which contributes to slower growth in wages and incomes. But though candidates certainly touched on points that are related to these issues, nobody directly mentioned the growth slowdown, much less propose solutions to it…..

35 years later, we know that the post-Reagan high-inequality era has not, in fact, generated sustainably faster growth than what we saw before. The economy has become more unequal, but growth has slowed. And it’s that slowdown in growth that makes the runup in inequality so unforgivable. If the rising tide was genuinely lifting all boats, people probably wouldn’t care so much about what the top one percent is up to. But the promised growth never arrived, and people are legitimately mad about it.

The lack of growth is a huge problem and it deserves serious solutions — including many of the kinds of specific things Democrats discussed relating to anti-trust law, labor unions, and investing in children — but to start you need to acknowledge the problem exists. And that means not dazzling people with fake stories of a robot revolution.”

Indeed, this robots obsession is a loser. Let’s start talking about what’s really important.

Lessons from a Near Upset in a Deep Red District

Democrat Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran who nearly won NC-9 a few weeks ago, has a highly instructive op-ed in The New York Times. As McCready wites:

In a special election on Sept. 10, my campaign came an inch short of flipping a deep red congressional seat in North Carolina. We lost, but we showed how Democrats can win nationwide in 2020.

On paper, a Democrat never should have been competitive in my district — it hadn’t elected one since John F. Kennedy was president. Over time, the Ninth District had been gerrymandered to include Charlotte’s prosperous, Republican-leaning suburbs, its conservative exurbs, and rural counties left behind by Washington’s trade deals.

In 2016, our district’s voters supported President Trump by almost 12 points — yet last month we came within two points of winning. In the Charlotte suburbs, we outperformed President Trump’s margin by more than 16 points.

MaCready, who also lost by just 907 votes in last years midterm elections, in “the largest case of election fraud in recent American history, targeting minority voters and tampering with their absentee ballots,” ran again as a result of a ‘re-do’ vote called  by election officials.

“My team knew our job would be harder than in 2018,” McCready explains. “Many Democrats were less likely to go to the polls in an off-year special election.” However, “Despite coming up short, we did better than many expected…” Some lessons from his experience he believes Democrats can use:

First, we grounded our campaign in values. We Democrats can sometimes get stuck in policy jargon and cede the language of values, where voters really make decisions, to Republicans. In our campaign, we flipped this around.

I built trust with voters by talking about what motivated me to serve. I was a 35-year-old father of four who had never held elected office, but I felt a calling to serve because I thought politicians needed to bring our country together, not tear it apart. During the campaign, I explained to voters that I had felt a similar calling after Sept. 11, 2001, which led me to join the Marine Corps. When I led a platoon of 65 Marines in Iraq, we never cared about your background, skin color or political party.

I likewise emphasized my business experience. When I built a solar energy company, I collaborated with Republicans and Democrats to put 700 people to work. That’s the kind of leadership, I said, that was missing in Washington.

I also wasn’t afraid to share how my faith led me to run, and then helped me press on through challenging times as we battled the election fraud.

So while I talked about policy, I anchored my candidacy in the things that connect us all. In the end, voters told me they trusted me because they got the real me. It’s a great lesson. We all have our own stories to tell. Lead with the heart, and the rest will follow.

In terms of issues, McCready notes,

Second, when it came to policy, I met voters where they were. We focused not on the daily drama in Washington, but on people’s everyday struggles. Voters told me that instead of more partisan fighting, they needed help to afford medication and doctors’ visits. I promised to work across party lines in Congress to lower health care and prescription drug costs. Voters welcomed my proposal to stand up to big drug companies, fix Obamacare and expand Medicaid.

To be sure, some activists wished I favored a stronger government hand in my health care proposal. But once they got to know me, they poured their hearts into our race because they knew my values and saw that we had the same goal of affordable and quality health care for every American. This taught me how important it is to avoid policy purity tests and focus on the goals we all share.

This approach also insulated me from some of my opponents’ appalling tactics. Republican groups spent over $6 million lying about my character. They told voters I supported infanticide. They tried to scare voters with racist dog whistles. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence even came down on the eve of the election to throw fuel on the fire.

But because we took the time to build a foundation of values and common-sense policy ideas, most persuadable voters found those attacks unbelievable.

McCready’s third point is that “running in a district like mine doesn’t mean a candidate has to sacrifice the Democratic base to win the middle. In fact, the trust we built early on, which we strengthened over countless coffee chats and town halls, set our base on fire. We didn’t always agree on policy specifics, but we trusted one another, and we became like family.”

He notes that “Our volunteers knocked on 200,000 doors in the largest congressional field effort people in North Carolina can remember. Suburban women of all backgrounds led the charge, motivated not just by our message of unity but also by my opponents’ and the president’s attacks on our democratic norms and values.”

Fourthly, McCready writes, “we didn’t give up on rural America, and Democrats elsewhere shouldn’t either.” Further,

In the rural areas of our district, politicians had left everyone behind — white, African-American and Native American voters alike. Political engagement was low as voters were fed up with broken promises by Washington politicians on both sides of the aisle. White and socially conservative Native American voters were moving Republican, while many African-American and Native American voters who voted Democrat were unlikely to choose to vote in an off-year election, especially one without local races on the ballot.

Still, in the rural areas, we exceeded Democrats’ 2016 performance, both last month and in the November 2018 midterm election. And we did that by showing up. Rural African-American communities mobilized because we worked hard to engage with local leaders and hear and speak to these voters’ needs, spending time in churches and small towns where many candidates rarely bothered to go. We gave them a reason to turn out. And look what happened: We rooted out election fraud that had festered for years and gave voters back their voice.

“If Democrats lead with our values, meet voters where they are and show up everywhere, we can do amazing things,” McCready concludes. “If Democrats nationwide replicate our 10-point gain next year, we will pick up 35 seats in the House and five seats in the Senate, and win every presidential battleground state. Bringing our country together depends on it.”

Metzgar: Dems Should Run on Winning Bold Economic Reforms, Not ‘Building on Progress’

The following article by Jack Metzgar, author of Striking Steel: Solidarity Remembered, professor emeritus of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago and former president of the Working-Class Studies Association, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

In 2015, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg advised Hillary Clinton to run on a promise to “level the playing field” and “rewrite the rules of the economy.”  She didn’t take his advice. Instead, she told voters she would “build on the progress” of the Obama administration and “create ladders of opportunity.”

Professors like me, who get to speak in full paragraphs all the time, can easily dismiss campaign slogans as superficial and manipulative.  But they are organizing principles that can align basic vision with both policy proposals and organizing strategies.  These two slogans still reflect two possible organizing principles for the Democratic Party in 2019-20.  Biden wants to build on Obama’s progress, and Sanders and Warren aim to rewrite the rules of the economy, boldly addressing our runaway inequality of income and wealth.  Like Greenberg four years ago, I believe that candidates who articulate a broad left-populist approach will be more electable in 2020.   And as we face a future filled with peril, they are the only leaders who can govern in a way that could repair our toxic race and class dynamics.

Greenberg skewers the “build on the progress” trope by showing how many people didn’t see any progress during Obama’s eight years, both in the economic data and in what people told him in surveys and focus groups.  He thinks this slogan actually moved some people to vote for Trump, who in 2016 seemed to many to be the one offering some hope and change.  Greenberg predicts that Trump will hang himself on the same trope next year, if he isn’t impeached and removed from office before then.

But I think it’s the second part of Clinton’s 2016 message that reflects the real problem: there’s an important difference between aspiring to “ladders of opportunity” versus “leveling the playing field.”  The first emphasizes equality of opportunity, while the second is about equality of condition.  Equality of opportunity aims to give everybody an equal chance to climb a ladder to get one of the limited number of spots on a playing field that is severely titled by race, gender, and class.  Equality of condition is about getting everybody on a level playing field, not necessarily in equally desirable spots but with some substantial narrowing of the best and worst spots and with the worst spots being adequate for a decent and meaningful life.

To get anything close to equality of opportunity, we would have to vote to take away the huge opportunity advantages currently enjoyed by most of the professional middle class.  This is a large group of people and they vote a lot, so no politician will either promise to or do what’s necessary, no matter how much they talk about equality of opportunity in the abstract.

To get close to equality of condition, on the other hand, requires rewriting the rules of the economy by fairly taxing the rich and then greatly expanding social wages – i.e., reducing everybody’s monthly expenses by using tax revenue to subsidize health care, housing, child care, mass transportation, and education.  To finance the expansion of social wages to scale, it’s helpful that a relatively small group of people now have most of our money.  They vote with dollars as well as ballots, but there aren’t very many of them, and as both Sanders and Warren have shown, we can get an enormous amount of money from the outrageously rich while leaving them still very rich.

While equal opportunity is the primary solution and goal for historically marginalized and discriminated-against groups like African-Americans and women, it’s no solution at all for class inequality – and especially not for the top-heavy kind we now have in the U.S.  Having an equal chance to get one of the limited number of spots at the top would still leave most people struggling with poor to mediocre incomes and working conditions.  What’s more, there is no way to achieve equal opportunity unless everybody starts out with some level of equality of condition.

Let’s take jobs, for example.  The equal-opportunity solution is for individuals to get a good education (even if they have to go into $100,000 of debt to get it) so they can then get one of those good professional or managerial jobs in the “knowledge economy.”  Problem is there are not enough of those good jobs for this to work for many people.  Professional and managerial positions, not all of which would count as “good jobs,” represent about two-fifths of all jobs, and the incomes and conditions of the other three-fifths are mostly insufficient and declining in real terms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest projection, that is not going to change in the future.  In fact, if anything, it’s going to get worse. Of the top 20 occupations estimated to have the largest job growth in the next ten years, the six lowest-paid jobs – five of them with median wages below the poverty level for a family of four – account for the majority of the new jobs.  Fourteen of the top 20 occupations make less than the national median wage of $47,000, and those 14 will account for more than three-fourths of job growth.  Nine of those occupations have medians of less than $30,000 and would thus benefit from a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.  Those nine occupations account for nearly 60% of all the jobs produced by the top 20.  They include food preparation and serving; personal care aides; home health aides; waiters and waitresses; janitors and cleaners; restaurant cooks; laborers and material movers; nursing assistants; and landscaping workers.  These are the primary jobs of the future.  They do not require college educations.  They are not part of the knowledge economy, except that they are the people who feed, clean, beautify, and care for knowledge workers when we’re not working.

No matter how much equal opportunity we achieve, somebody has to do these jobs.  These people are doing work that needs to be done.  It would be great if we could equalize educational opportunity for their children, but they need higher incomes now, unions to represent them now, and social wages that can dramatically reduce their household expenses now.

Most of the rest of the workforce also needs those things, if not as urgently and dramatically as low-wage workers, and what’s more, they know it.  As a Vox headline reported earlier this year, “taxing the rich is very popular; it’s Republicans who have the radical position.”  And while the concept of social wages is not yet part of our public discourse, individual elements of it are also popular.  Majorities may not be for totally eliminating private health insurance in four years, as Sanders and Warren propose,  but very large majorities support various forms of expanded public health insurance like “Optional Medicare-for-all” and “Medicaid buy-in.” Likewise, “two-thirds of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”  Even larger majorities support paid family leave, greatly expanded government spending on child care and early learning, and large increases in infrastructure spending, though a somewhat smaller majority support the Green New Deal.

On these and some related issues, public opinion is what the mainstream media calls “far left,” and the public is unified on these issues across race and class.  Even the white working class, the mainstay of the current Republican Party, basically agrees with the black working class and the Hispanic working class on these social-wage issues, as do majorities of college-educated folks of all races.  Democrats who run on these issues will beat Trump or any other Republican, and they will be positioned to govern us out of our current morass.  Democrats need to make a big promise and then organize like hell to achieve it.  Building on “progress” that most people haven’t seen for 30 or 40 years won’t do it. It’s time to level the playing field and rewrite the rules of the economy.

Teixeira: Can Dems Win NC’s Electoral College Votes?

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

Could the Democrats Take North Carolina in 2020?

Their chances may be better than you think. From the latest Public Policy Polling North Carolina (note: not an outlier compared to other recent NC polls):

“46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 51% who disapprove of him, in a state that he took by 4 points in 2016. 48% of voters support impeaching Trump, with an equal 48% opposed. At this point disapproval for Trump and support for impeaching Trump have become almost the same thing- only 7% of voters who disapprove of Trump are opposed to impeaching him.

We tested the 5 leading Democratic candidates in head to heads with Trump and he trails 3 of them, while it’s very close against the other two. Joe Biden has a 5 point advantage at 51-46, Elizabeth Warren has a 3 point advantage at 49-46, and Bernie Sanders is up 50-47. Trump and Kamala Harris tie at 47, and Trump has a slight advantage over Pete Buttigieg at 47-46. It’s notable that regardless of the Democrat he’s tested against, Trump always polls at 46-47% in North Carolina.”

Of course, it won’t be easy. Here’s my take on the challenges involved.

Hillary Clinton lost North Carolina by just under 4 points in 2016. This follows Obama’s narrow 2-point loss in 2012 and even narrower victory by one-third of a percentage point in 2008. All these performances were dramatically better for the Democrats compared to losing the state by 12 points in 2004 and 13 points in 2000.

Democrats made some progress in the state in 2018. They did relatively well in the House popular vote, losing it by under 2 points–though they did not succeed in flipping any GOP-held House seats. But they flipped a net of 16 state legislative seats and broke Republican supermajorities in both chambers. This is of considerable significance since North Carolina’s governor is currently a Democrat.

These trends give the Democrats hope they can take the state in 2020. The Trump campaign, on the other hand, is well prepared to defend North Carolina’s 15 electoral voters—essential for their coalition—even though Trump’s current net job approval rating in the state is in danger territory.

North Carolina’s large nonwhite population accounted for 28 percent of voters in 2016. As in Georgia, Blacks in North Carolina dominate the nonwhite vote: 22 percent of all voters, compared to 3 percent for Hispanics and just under 4 percent for Asians/other race. Blacks supported Clinton by 76 points, Hispanics by 15 points and Asians/other race by 2 points. White college graduates in North Carolina, 28 percent of voters, supported Clinto, but it was close, giving her a 4-point advantage, 49-45 percent. White non-college voters, 43 percent of the voting electorate, on the other hand, gave him a whopping advantage of 51 points, 74-23 percent.

We expect white non-college eligible voters in 2020 to decline over 2 points relative to 2016, while white college graduates should go up very slightly. Hispanics should increase a point, Black eligible voters by half a point and Asians/other race also by half a point. If 2016 voting patterns remain the same these underlying demographic changes in the eligible electorate would be enough to reduce the Democratic candidate’s projected 2020 deficit in the state by almost 2 points.

As with Georgia, given the relative closeness of Trump’s victory in 2016 plus the projected impact of demographic change, Trump probably needs to go beyond holding his 2016 levels of group support. Increasing his margin among white college voters by 10 points would yield a 5 point victory in 2020, all else equal, while increasing his already-huge lead among white non-college voters by the same amount would project to a 6 point margin.

For the Democratic candidate, the Black vote, as in Georgia, will have great importance. If Black turnout in 2020 matches 2012 levels (there was a large decline in 2016) that would actually project to a Democratic victory of just under a percentage point, all else equal. Matching Black support to 2012 levels would further boost the Democrats’ margin. A 10-point pro-Democratic margin shift among North Carolina’s liberalizing white college graduate population—going from +4 to +14—would project to a narrow victory of the same magnitude as the increased Black turnout scenario. Decreasing Trump’s very large white non-college margin by 10 points would project to a larger victory.

So those are the parameters of battle. Let the jousting begin!

A Case for Narrowing Democratic Messaging on Impeachment

Just how should Democrats make the case for impeachment? Marik Von Rennenkampff, a former State Department analyst and Obama appointee to the Defense Department  shares some thoughts in his link-rich article “Why aren’t Democrats weaponizing Fox News on impeachment?” at The Hill:

If historically-timid Democrats take their dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution seriously, they’ll realize that much of Trump’s political base is impervious to arguments – no matter how logical or factually sound – made outside of the truth-starved, conspiracy theory-peddlingright wing media bubble. Welcome to Trumpian America.

With that reality in mind, Democrats should relentlessly promote the astutely spirited analysis of Fox News’ chief judicial correspondent. Judge Napolitano has stated on multiple live television interviews that in pushing a foreign leader to perform a political “favor” for him, Trump engaged in “criminal and impeachable behavior.” In an era where powerful right wing echo chambers reign supreme, Napolitano’s assessment is a messaging gold mine for constitutionally-minded (yet painfully PR-illiterate) Democrats.

Yes that Fox News. Now take a deep breath and read on.

Indeed, given Fox News’ catnip-like effect on Trump’s red-meat base, one must ask why Democrats are not squeezing every ounce of messaging value out of Napolitano’s spot-on legal analysis. Democrats, apparently, continue to lack the go-for-the-jugular mentality that their right wing counterparts have successfully embraced for decades.

Judge Napolitano’s blistering take, especially in the context of the roiling internal conflict between Fox News’ reporting and commentary divisions, should be a Democratic talking point, repeated ad nauseam, in every single media appearance. The same goes for Fox News characterizing a series of text messages exchanged by U.S. diplomats as “devastating” to Trump. Equally noteworthy is a former Republican senator’s stunning suggestion that “at least 35” of his former GOPcolleagues would privately vote to impeach Trump.

The beauty part is that weak-kneed Republican Senators and House members are extremely worried about the votes of Trump’s MAGA-hats, most of whom either watch the hell out of Fox News or take their voting tips from friends and family members who do so. As Rennenkampff notes, “Relentless promotion of these explosive Fox News pieces knocks the GOP on its heels and forces Trump’s base into the challenging position of defending its own propaganda machine.”

It may be that few hard-core Trump supporters will be swayed by such a campaign. But confronting GOP politicians with Napolitano’s “blistering take” accompanied by the Fox logo should make them squirm. Further, Rennenkampff writes,

Democrats can start with the issue of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Why, after five years, did Trump suddenly and unilaterally halt critical American military aid to an ally at war? Trump’s own national security team – let alone Congress, which authorized the funding – was left utterly baffled and blindsided by the decision. The same goes for the Ukrainians.

Make that “an ally who fought alongside Americans against Isis.” Rennenkampff adds that, “While Fox News has reported that Trump engaged in an impeachable “quid pro quo,” his abrupt halt of U.S. assistance to Kyiv strikes at the heart of the crisis.” Also, there’s the corruption redolence: “Democrats should also investigate whether Trump pushed the Ukrainian government to drop criminal investigationsinto his campaign manager’s enormously corrupt dealings in exchange for then-newly approved lethal military aid..In much the same vein, the firing of a widely-respected American diplomat in order to enrich Trump’s cronies reeks of swampian corruption.”

Even if Trump’s base is unmoved by all of the above, holding the Republican politicians who rep them accountable to Fox News reports favoring impeachment could help Dems, if not with impeachment, then perhaps with 2020 election ads.

Teixeira: Proof, If Any More Proof Were Needed, That You Can Indeed Run Too Far to the Left

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

Political scientist Alexander Agadjanian conducted an interesting survey experiment recently, whose results he reported in the New York Times. Here’s the description:

“The experiment’s procedure was simple. A random half of participants read a news snippet illustrating the leftward shift, while the other half read about unrelated topics, such as the schedule of election dates. The news item was a few sentences that included policies discussed by the candidates: decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings; expanding undocumented immigrants’ access to government services; replacing private health insurance with a government-run system; and establishing free public college for all children from working-class families. The content was drawn directly from real news coverage.

Both sets of respondents then indicated how they planned to vote in 2020 (whether for President Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee), how strongly they were considering voting Democratic, and how motivated they felt to turn out and vote for or against the Democratic nominee. Because of the random assignment — with some reading about the policy positions and others reading innocuous, unrelated information — the difference in responses between the groups can be attributed to the effect of reading about the leftward shift.

When deciding between Mr. Trump and the Democratic nominee, voters in the middle — the independents who could ultimately tilt things in Mr. Trump’s favor — became six percentage points less likely to vote Democratic after reading about the leftward turn compared with the independents who had read the innocuous content.”

Note the overlap between the items Agadjanian tested and my earlier piece on “The Four Don’ts of the 2020 Democratic Campaign”. Nice of him to test them for me!

Of course, defenders of these dubious policies can always come up with arguments about how these positions won’t actually the hurt the eventual nominee. This is wishful thinking I believe and, if the Democrats nominee wins in November 2020, it will be in spite of, not because of, these unpopular policies. As Agadjanian remarks:

“The question is, are Democrats giving Republicans a head start and making themselves a juicier target? This experiment suggests the answer might be yes.”

Teixeira: A Case for ‘Social Democratic Capitalism’

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

Social Democratic Capitalism!

The excellent Lane Kenworthy has a new book coming out. Pre-order today!

“For nations, as for individuals, it’s good to be rich. Affluent countries are more likely to be democratic, more likely to have government programs that cushion life’s bumps and boost the capabilities and well-being of the less fortunate, and more likely to prioritize personal liberty. Their citizens tend to be more secure, better educated, healthier, freer, and happier.

The world’s twenty or so rich democratic countries aren’t all alike, and they’ve changed a good bit over the past century. Their experiences give us helpful clues about what institutions and policies best promote human flourishing. To this point in history, the most successful societies have been those that feature capitalism, a democratic political system, good elementary and secondary (K–12) schooling, a big welfare state, employment-conducive public services, and moderate regulation of product and labor markets. I call this set of policies and institutions “social democratic capitalism.”

Social democratic capitalism improves living standards for the least well-off, enhances economic security, and very likely boosts equality of opportunity. It does so without sacrificing the many other things we want in a good society, from liberty to economic growth and much more. Its chief practitioners have been the Nordic nations: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Contrary to what some presume, there is no good reason to think social democratic capitalism will work well only in these countries. Its success almost certainly is transferable to other affluent nations. Indeed, all of those nations already are partial adopters of social democratic capitalism.

The United States, the largest of the world’s rich democracies, is one of those partial adopters. If the United States were to expand some of its existing public social programs and add some additional ones, many ordinary Americans would have better lives. Despite formidable political obstacles, there is good reason to think America will move in this direction in coming decades.

Those are my conclusions. This book provides the evidence and the reasoning.

Teixeira: The Democrats and the Diversity of Suburbs

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

The Democrats have been making some significant gains in suburban America. But it’s important to remember that suburbia is a vast section of America and should not be thought of as just the suburban outgrowths of our largest and most dynamic cities. There is much, much more to suburbia than that. And once you get away from these more cosmopolitan suburbs, the voters (more white, less educated) and Democratic progress look quite different.

I noted this point in various analyses I conducted of the Obama elections. The differences I discussed at the time between small and medium metros and the largest metros remain very relevant. David Hopkins rehearses some of the current data in a very good New York Times op-ed.

“[Democrats] have not extended [their] success to the suburban communities surrounding smaller cities, which remain predominantly — even increasingly — Republican. The suburbs surrounding Jacksonville, Fla., Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., for example, provide Republican candidates with more than enough votes to compete in, and often win, statewide elections.

To achieve a durable national majority, Democratic candidates will need to expand their appeal to the less diverse and more culturally conservative electorates of the small-metro suburbs, which remain aligned with the Republican Party even in the era of Donald Trump….

The growing partisan divergence separating large-metro suburbs from those in the rest of the country extends to congressional elections….[I]n the nation’s smaller metro areas, where the share of suburban House seats held by Republicans rose to 71 percent after 2018 from 60 percent after the 1994 election, Republicans continue to thrive. Even last November’s “blue wave” hardly threatened Republican incumbents like Warren Davidson of suburban Cincinnati-Dayton, who won re-election by 33 percentage points; Gary Palmer of suburban Birmingham, Ala., who won by 38 points; or Francis Rooney of suburban Cape Coral, Fla., who won by 25 points….

President Trump’s historically strong performance in a string of smaller and more homogeneous suburbs from greater Scranton, Pa., to greater Des Moines proved pivotal in the 2016 election and could well recur in 2020. Broadening the Democratic tent to bring more of these socially traditionalist small-metro suburbanites into the fold would provide the party with a critical electoral advantage, but such gains will be difficult to achieve in an era of growing cultural warfare.”

That’s the challenge. We’ll see if the Democrats are up to it.

Teixeira: It’s the Regional Inequality, Stupid!

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

Anne Kim has a good article up on the Washington Monthly site that draws out perhaps the key political implication of the Muro-Whiton Brookings study on economic divergence between Democratic and Republican districts. After summarizing some of the Brookings findings (which I covered in a previous post) and related analyses and connecting them to regional divergence, she points out:

“These kinds of imbalances cry out for a policy agenda aimed at spreading economic opportunity more evenly across the country. But so far, the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have stuck to universalist policy ideas like Medicare for All, while discussions of inequality have centered on race or class, but not on geography.

To be sure, a few candidates, including Vice President Joe Biden, have a “rural agenda” in their platforms. But the ideas encapsulated in them include relatively narrow default tropes like expanding broadband and helping family farmers. The one nod toward the disparate regional impacts of economic change is on trade policy, but there again, the prescriptions are less about creating new jobs than about posturing on China or regurgitating standard talking points bashing trade agreements. None of the candidates have put forth signature policy priorities that would rejuvenate the moribund economies of the industrial Midwest, or help heartland economies generate the kind of prosperity that their coastal neighbors enjoy.

The absence of a credible Democratic agenda on regional prosperity is one reason Trump has had free rein to exploit and magnify the economic discontent in large parts of the country for his political gain. As wrong-headed and destructive as his policies have been, his supporters can rightly say that Trump has at least acknowledged the significance of their economic decline.

Democrats shouldn’t continue to leave the field to Trump to romp at will.”

She concludes, and very rightly I think:

“Superimpose a map of the electoral college in 2020 and two things immediately become clear. First, Democratic strongholds such as California, New York, and Illinois are nowhere near sufficient to deliver the 270 votes Democrats need to secure the White House. The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, for instance, counts 183 “safe” Democratic electoral votes so far.

Second, many of the swing states Democrats will need to win fall squarely within the “other America” in need of help. These states include the industrial upper Midwest—Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan—as well as Pennsylvania and Colorado. Four of these also happen to be states that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

Some liberals no doubt worry that nodding to the economic woes of blue-collar heartland America somehow validates the nationalism, MAGA-ism, and outright racism that Trump has unleashed. Nothing is further from the case. Reviving the heartland to help all Americans prosper is ultimately not about blue states versus red states, but about reviving the national project now in jeopardy.”

Teixeira: Is Warren Electable?

Is Warren Electable?, Take 2

Some interesting new data from Democracy Corps, which show her running about as well against Trump as Biden (49-42 vs. 49-41). I was particularly encouraged by the chart below, which shows her doing relatively well among white working class women. This is a trend to keep an eye on, given the probable centrality of these voters to the 2020 election result.

Chart on Warren's Electability

To read Teixeira’s earlier post on Warren’s electability, click here.