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Teixeira: Joe Manchin, The People’s Hero

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

Joe Manchin is taking a lot of flack these days and I get why. If only he was not the actually-existing Joe Manchin from the actually-existing conservative state of West Virginia but instead some other Joe Manchin from some other, much more liberal, West Virginia! The Democrats’ job would certainly be a lot easier.

But this is all a bit silly isn’t it? In reality, the Democrats are damn lucky to have Manchin. They and any chance of large-scale progressive legislation would be dead without him. As political scientist Hans Noel noted in the Post:

“[I]t should be possible for Democrats to hold two thoughts at once about the West Virginia politician: First, what he is doing is lamentable, damaging to the party’s goals. But second, his presence in the Senate is a gift to the Democratic Party. Having a Democratic senator in 2021 in a state like West Virginia — where neither Hillary Clinton nor Biden could crack 30 percent of the vote — is a remarkable bit of good fortune.

Had Manchin not won reelection in 2018, his seat would be held by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). This is the Morrisey who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in four states where Trump lost; so probably not, to put it mildly, someone whom Democrats could persuade to back the For the People Act. More importantly, all else remaining the same, had Morrisey won, Democrats would be in the minority in the Senate, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) would be setting the body’s agenda, as majority leader.

But perhaps West Virginia needn’t have chosen between Manchin and someone like Morrisey in the first place. What if Democrats ran and nominated someone more liberal, or at least more likely to vote with Democrats, in Manchin’s next primary?

Consider, however, that Manchin beat Morrisey with 49.6 percent of the vote to Morrisey’s 46.3. This in a state where Biden got 29.7 percent of the presidential vote in 2020 and the Democratic challenger to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) that same year got 27 percent. There’s no evidence that another Democrat could come anywhere close to Manchin’s electoral performance.”

Them’s the facts. You might not like ’em, but them’s the facts.

And it’s not like they’re getting nothing from Manchin. David Leonhardt spells out his utility on economic issues, if not on things like the voting rights bill:

“The issues that tend to unite the Democratic Party are economic issues, and Manchin is a good case study. When he breaks with his party, it is typically on issues other than economic policy.

He effectively killed the voting rights bill this week, and he voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018. Manchin is also well to the right of most congressional Democrats on abortion and gun policy.

Yet he has often stuck with his party on taxes, health insurance, labor unions and other pocketbook issues. Like every other Democrat in the Senate, Manchin voted against both Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and the 2017 Trump tax cut that was skewed heavily toward the rich. Earlier this year, Manchin voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus rescue bill. Without his vote, that bill would not be law.

On all these issues — economic and otherwise — Manchin’s votes tend to reflect the majority opinion of his constituents. West Virginia is a working-class state, and American working-class voters tend to be culturally conservative and economically progressive. Polls show that most favor abortion restrictions, tight border security and well-funded police departments — as well as expanded Medicare and pre-K, a higher minimum wage, federal spending to create jobs and tax increases on the rich.

“Manchin is a pocketbook Democrat, not a social warrior,” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me.

This pattern suggests that Manchin may be willing to support versions of the next two major items on Biden’s agenda: an infrastructure bill and an “American Families Plan” to expand child care, education and other areas….

If Manchin had provided the deciding vote for the voting rights bill, it arguably would have been unlike any other vote he had cast in his career. The same would not be true of a vote for the infrastructure bill or the families plan.”

Leonhardt goes on to draw the crucial lessons for the Democrats going forward:

“What about the longer term for the Democratic Party? Some Democrats are worried that the lack of a voting rights bill will doom the party to election losses starting in 2022. But that seems like an overstatement.

The voting restrictions being passed by Republican state legislators are worrisomely antidemocratic and partisan in their intent, many election experts say. And they may give Republicans an unfair advantage in very close elections. But it seems likely they will have only a modest impact, as Nate Cohn, who analyzes elections for The Times, has explained. Democrats can still win elections.

Manchin happens to be a useful guide on that topic, too. He has kept winning even as West Virginia has become deeply Republican, by appealing to the state’s culturally conservative, economically progressive majority. To varying degrees, some other Democrats from red or purple states, like Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, offer similar lessons. So did Obama, who fared better with working-class voters than many other Democrats.

This approach is the only evident way for Democrats to stem their losses in recent years among working-class voters — and not only among the white working class. A recent analysis of the 2020 election by three Democratic groups argued that the party lost Black, Latino and Asian American support because it did not have a sharp enough economic message. A recent poll by a Republican group found that most Latinos supported both tight border security and “traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom….

The Democrats’ problem isn’t so much Joe Manchin as it is the dearth of other senators who are as good at winning tough elections as he is.”

That’s right. You don’t like Joe Manchin? Fine. Go elect a bunch of other Senators in tough states so Democrats aren’t so dependent on him. The continuous rending of garments about his conservatism is truly pointless.

Finally, it’s not clear that Machin did such a bad thing by finally marking clear the For the People Act wasn’t going to pass. It was a quixotic and doomed approach to the problems it purported to solve. John Judis notes the profound problems with the bill and how a narrower approach to voting rights problems would be more realistic and effective:

“The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandable that he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.

These measures include, as I have described before, wide-ranging campaign finance reform, including public funding of elections, the institution of non-partisan redistricting, support for Congress being able to declare the District of Columbia a state, and a panoply of regulations that would govern state elections — elections that are supposed to be the purview of states. Many of these provisions are controversial. In West Virginia, the Association of County Clerks sent Manchin and his fellow senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a letter opposing the bill on the grounds that West Virginia was not prepared to implement many of the new regulations. Of the 54 of 55 clerks who signed the letter, 37 were Democrats….

Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular — making election-day a federal holiday, for instance. And they would be even better off, as Manchin suggested, putting their weight behind the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, and permit the Justice Department to block measures intended to curb minority voting. These measures are readily understandable, and would earn some Republican support, and they do address the Republican efforts to rig forthcoming elections. If this bill failed, that defeat could be used against Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024. It would portray the Republicans as captive of Trump’s bigotry and assault against democracy, and this measure’s defeat might also lead some Democrats to reconsider their opposition to filibuster reform.

As for the filibuster, the Democrats currently lack the popular support — as well as support in the Senate — for doing away entirely with the filibuster. To do that, Democrats would have to show that Republicans were using the filibuster to block measures that [are] wildly popular. The For the People Act doesn’t qualify. Nor do…most of [the] major bills that House Democrats have passed and are hoping to pass that cover gender, race, immigration, labor, and gun control.”

These are the political realities Democrats have to deal with until the situation changes. Until then though, you still have Joe Manchin–The People’s Hero!


Judis: Is Manchin Actually Helping Dems?

Writing at Talking Points Memo, John Judis, author of The Politics of Our Time: Populism, Nationalism, Socialism  and other works of political analysis, makes a case that Sen. Joe Manchin may be “doing the Democrats a favor.” As Judis writes,

Liberal Democrats are enraged at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the For the People Act and for supporting the filibuster, which would have to be overturned in order for the voting legislation, even with Manchin’s support, to get through Congress. Manchin may, however, be doing these liberal Democrats a favor in this case.

In response to setbacks in November 2020, Republican state governments are attempting to rig their election laws to favor their own candidates. Some of these measures, such as limiting voting by mail, may not favor Republicans at all. (Several of the measures counter rules that were specially designed for voting during the pandemic and may be irrelevant in 2022 and beyond.) Other measures, such as limiting polling places and times in urban areas, could depress minority voting and benefit Republicans. Still others, such as allowing state legislators to overturn popular election results, are probably unconstitutional.

The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandablethat he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.

Judis argues that “Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular” and focus on passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has more hope of bipartisan support. Some of the measures in the ‘For the People Act’ could more realistically be passed later on, along with some of the more controversial social reforms – particularly if Dems pick up some Senate and House seats in the midterm elections, and in  2024. Also,

What Democrats can pass without the threat of the filibuster are spending and taxing measures. These can be passed through a process called reconciliation. These kind of economic measures, epitomized in the Biden administration’s relief and recovery bills, are popular. So, too, was the recent Senate bill promoting an industrial policy, which won bipartisan support. In other words, the presence of the filibuster forces Democrats in the Senate and the Biden administration to focus their efforts on popular economic measures. These measures will put the party in good stead in the next elections, which Democrats must win if they don’t want whatever they accomplish in these years to be reversed or subverted. If the Democrats lose the Congress in 2022, they will be stymied.

Read the rest of Judis’s TPM article right here.


Galston: Why Immigration Reform May Become An Easier Sell

In  his Wall St. Journal column, “Biden’s Slow-Growth Budget Gamble,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William A. Galston, author of Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy, writes:

According to a recent CBO report, the principal driver of slow growth since 2008 has been a sharp slowdown in the growth of the labor supply. As baby boomers joined the workforce, the annual increase in labor supply averaged more than 2%, peaking at 2.5% between 1974 and 1981. As late as the 1990s, annual labor-force expansion averaged 1.2%. But as the population aged and baby boomers began to retire, annual increases fell to 0.5% between 2008 and 2020, a figure that the CBO expects to fall to 0.4% in 2021-25 and 0.3% in 2026-31.

The distant future looks no brighter. The total fertility rate needed to maintain a stable population is about 2.1 children for every woman. In 2020 the U.S. rate dropped to 1.64, the latest in a long decline. The workforce of the 2030s and 2040s could be smaller than today’s, a prospect that other advanced economies are also facing, including China.

The other main driver of economic growth—output per worker—has been less predictable. Annual increases averaged 2.3% between 1950 and 1973, fell to 0.7% between 1974 and 1981, then surged to 2% in the 1990s before falling back to about 1.3% in 2001-20.

Galston argues that ” international experience suggests that there is little government can do to increase birthrates. But there is much that can be done to improve labor-force participation. Government can make it easier for women to remain in the workforce, for those formerly incarcerated to re-enter it, for young adults not bound for college to find technical training and for aging Americans to work part time if they choose, among other things.”

But Galston also sees a possible solution to America’s immigration crisis emerging from the labor supply slowdown:

Another strategy is more immigration. We have gone in the other direction in recent years, but immigration policy reforms keyed to the needs of the economy may be easier to sell to a skeptical public than an expanded version of the status quo.

However, Galston warns, “Getting America back to faster growth will take resources and focus. But if growth remains slow, Mr. Biden’s honorable effort to improve the lives of working- and middle-class families may end up hobbled by the well-known difficulties of zero-sum politics.”


Teixeira: Why Biden’s Full Employment Economy is a B.F.D.

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

Has the Most Important Part of Bidenomics Already Been “Passed”?

No, I don’t mean the American Rescue Plan though it is bound up with what I’m referring to: Bidenomics’ commitment to a full-employment, high-pressure economy. America has now had four decades or so of *not* being committed to a full employment economy and it has not gone well, generating a chronic disadvantage for labor vis a vis capital, stagnating wages, soaring inequality and slow productivity growth. Resetting American economic policy away from this disastrous course could be the most important thing Biden accomplishes as President.

Eric Levitz at New York magazine notes:

“For the bulk of the past four decades, our government hasn’t merely declined to achieve full employment through public hiring; it has actively sought to keep millions of Americans perpetually unemployed.

This bipartisan consensus against full employment was rarely articulated to the public in forthright terms. During the crisis that consolidated the paradigm, policy-makers were sometimes blunt; in 1979, Fed chair Paul Volcker told Congress that in order for inflation to be brought down to a tolerable level, “the standard of living of the average American has to decline.” But as inflation became more of a historical memory than a present danger, the government’s prioritization of price stability over employment became increasingly camouflaged behind the dry technocratic verbiage of central-bank press conferences. Once decoded, the gist of this new consensus was simple enough: If unemployment falls beneath its “natural” threshold, then employers will be forced into a bidding war for scarce workers, who will then secure wages in excess of their productivity, which will force businesses to raise prices, which will lead workers to demand yet-higher wages, which will force businesses to raise prices further still, thereby setting off an inflationary spiral that will be difficult to stop. Thus, to save the economy from such destabilization, the government has to reduce economic demand — by raising interest rates, or cutting federal spending, or both — before unemployment gets too low, even if inflation is not yet apparent.

This official narrative obscured the class interests implicated by the government’s prioritization of low inflation over plentiful jobs. America’s wealthy have a greater material interest in price stability than they do in full employment; moderate inflation erodes the value of their bonds and cash holdings, while moderate unemployment has little adverse impact on their finances — and may even increase the value of their stocks by suppressing labor’s bargaining power. The bulk of U.S. workers, on the other hand, have a much greater interest in abundant jobs than ultralow prices. In a full-employment economy — where firms must compete for scarce labor — employers will be more likely to offer opportunities to “low skill” workers, on-the-job training to inexperienced ones, accommodations to the partially disabled, and wage increases to all. Nevertheless, policy-makers spent the bulk of the past 40 years preventing that economy from coming into being. In fact, as recently as 2015, the Fed treated preempting the mere risk of modest inflation as a higher priority than the achievement of an unemployment rate below 5 percent.”

But now, on the heels of massive fiscal support for the economy and workers, both in the latter part of the Trump administration and rapidly out of the box by the Biden administration, we seem to be getting the highly desired reset of macroeconomic policy. Joe Biden recently said in Cleveland:

“My sole measure of economic success is how working families are doing, whether they have jobs that deliver dignity. That means we have to focus on wages like we used to. When it comes to the economy we’re building, rising wages aren’t a bug; they’re a feature. We want to get — we want to get something economists call “full employment.” Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, we want employees to compete with each other to attract work. We want the — the companies to compete to attract workers.

That kind of competition in the market doesn’t just give workers more ability to earn a higher wage, it gives them the power to demand to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. And it helps ensure that America — when you walk into work, you don’t have to check your right to be treated with respect at the door. “

Levitz adds:

“Biden’s speech was remarkable for its acknowledgment of full employment’s class implications: When jobs are plentiful, workers get leverage over bosses — which is a good thing, since workers cannot reliably secure “dignity and respect in the workplace” unless they have some material power over their employers.

This was especially notable in light of the speech’s context. In recent weeks, lamentations of a “labor shortage” have filled the business press, while multiple Obama-administration economists have sounded alarms over inflation. The president’s remarks serve as a tacit rebuke to both of those criticisms. Biden suggests that a scarcity of labor isn’t a blight to be avoided, but a goal to be pursued (after all, a synonym for “labor shortage” is “a dearth of involuntarily unemployed people”). And he also signaled an allegiance to full employment and wage growth over the minimization of inflationary risk.”

In addition, Matt Yglesias notes:

“[A]s Jared Bernstein [now a key Biden economic advisor] wrote as far back as 1999, there is a reason Martin Luther King put full employment at the center of the civil rights agenda. For all the attention paid to diversity and inclusion in white-collar workplaces, the vast majority of workers have working-class jobs….Full employment lifts up people on the margins of the labor market [and] punishes discrimination…by genuinely changing the calculus about how much sense it makes to be choosy.”

In short, full employment, as Joe Biden himself might put it, is a big fucking deal.


Berman and Surgey: GOP’s Dark Money Group Gains Traction in State Legislatures

At Mother Jones, Ari Berman and Nick Surgey report on the growing influence of Heritage Action for America in spearheading voter suppression laws in state legislatures across America. As Berman and Surgey note,

“In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told the foundation’s donors at an April 22 gathering in Tucson, in a recording obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones. Those included policies severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.

All of these recommendations came straight from Heritage’s list of “best practices” drafted in February. With Heritage’s help, Anderson said, Georgia became “the example for the rest of the country.”

The leaked video reveals the extent to which Heritage is leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. It’s no coincidence that so many GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass similar pieces of legislation in such a short period of time.”

Berman and Surgey have a lot more to say – read on here.


Teixeira: How Can the Biden Administration Deliver Good Jobs?

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

Perhaps It Takes a European Observer To See the Democrats’ Fundamental Political-Economic Problem Clearly

Jean Pisani-Ferry is at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. In an article on Project Syndicate he observes:

“The Biden administration’s promises to “think big” and rebuild the country seem like a major historical departure from decades of policy orthodoxy. And yet, insofar as its agenda will merely help the United States catch up to other advanced economies, its main components amount to necessary but insufficient reforms.”

He focuses particularly on the Democrats’ fundamental political problem and links it to the difficulties of the left in other advanced countries:

“[S]uch reforms are unlikely to suffice to address the Democrats’ political problem. Their challenge is that white voters without a college degree – who formed the backbone of Trump’s support – still make up 41% of the electorate. Even assuming that new voting laws in many Republican-led states do not overly suppress black turnout, the Democratic coalition of black voters and educated elites remains at the mercy of a shift in public sentiment, leaving the party without a strong enough majority in the right places to guarantee victory in the Electoral College in 2024.

The Democrats’ imperative is to recapture the white working-class voters who backed Trump in 2016 and 2020. But since Bill Clinton’s presidency in the 1990s, the party has offered left-behind workers only two solutions: education and social benefits. As The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein recounts, Clinton’s mantra was that, “What you learn is what you earn.” He and Barack Obama strongly believed that more and better education was the best way to deal with the labor-market upheavals brought about by digitalization and globalization. (Europeans mostly shared this philosophy, though they placed a greater emphasis on social transfers.)

But workers do not agree. They do not want to live on welfare, but nor do they want to be sent back to school. Rather, they want to keep the good jobs that have long provided them with incomes and a sense of pride. Trump won in 2016 because he understood this sentiment and exploited it to win the working-class vote in key swing states.

And it’s not just America. Everywhere one looks, the left has lost the working-class vote. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has conquered Labour’s “Red Wall”; in France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen has emerged as the candidate of choice for a growing share of workers; and in Germany, the Social Democrats seem likely to be crushed in the September elections. As Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano, and Thomas Piketty show in a fascinating comparative paper, the traditional cleavages that structured postwar politics have collapsed across Western democracies.

Biden clearly understands this political shift. Last month, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, he made a point of noting that nearly 90% of the jobs created by his infrastructure plan will not require a college degree. But how can his administration actually deliver good jobs?”

That’s the question. And it’s not at all clear the Biden administration has a good answer to this and, therefore, to its fundamental political problem.


Should Democratic Messaging Toughen Up for the Midterms?

At Gallup, Jeffrey M. Jones reports, “In Gallup polling throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of U.S. adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That compares with 40% who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners. The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012. In recent years, Democratic advantages have typically been between four and six percentage points.” Further,

Gallup routinely measures U.S. adults’ party identification and the political leanings of independents. In the first quarter, 30% of Americans identified as Democrats and 19% were Democratic-leaning independents, while 25% were Republican identifiers and 15% Republican-leaning independents. The vast majority of the remaining 11% were independents with no partisan leanings.

The latest figures were measured as President Joe Biden was inaugurated despite rioters’ attempts on Jan. 6 to disrupt the certification of his victory in the 2020 election. The first quarter also saw a steady decline in U.S. coronavirus deaths and infections from its early January peak, a great expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations, and the passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Jones notes that Democrats have enjoyed an even larger advantage during the Bush II and Clinton presidencies. Jones adds that “The 44% of Americans who identify as political independents, whether they subsequently express a party leaning or not, is up from 38% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is above 40% for the first time since 2019.”

In light of the Democratic edge in party identification, Republicans did very well in U.S. House elections, as well as state legislatures. A new study “Way to Win” found that “Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism, as Greg Sargent reports. “Republicans spent more than 10 times more on ads with the words “extremist” and “radical” than Democrats did. Republicans spent $51 million on such ads, while Democrats spent $3.4 million….Overall, Republicans spent more than $87 million on ads with one or more of the following words in it: “AOC,” “Ocasio,” “Pelosi,” “socialism,” “socialist,” “defund,” “radical,” “extremist,” “extreme.”….GOP ads were more likely to use words with “emotional punch,” such as “taxes,” “radical” and “jobs,” while Democratic ads featured words like “insurance,” “voted” and “work.”

Talking up bipartisanship may have served Democrats well in electing Biden, and possibly Biden’s coattails helped Democratic senate candidates Ossoff and Warnock in GA. But the softer tone may be a liability for Dems in 2022 House and Senate races.

In his article “GOP Image Slides Giving Democrats Strong Advantage” back in February, Jones reported on an earlier Gallup poll and observed that “The tumultuous end to the Trump presidency appears to have harmed the image of the Republican Party. The GOP now faces a double-digit deficit in favorable ratings compared with the Democratic Party.”

Clearly, Democrats are on the right track in pressing the case for a thorough investigation of the January 6th riot, which Trump encouraged and all but a few Republican leaders refuse to condemn. Democrats have a wealth of video showing Trump supporters committing violence, destroying taxpayer-owned property, and leveraging it to remind midterm voters about the GOP’s grotesque hypocrisy regarding law, the Constitution and democracy should give Dems a big edge in branding their adversries.


Brownstein: Asian American Voters Could Be Key for Dems in Upcoming Elections

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein explains why the Asian American vote could be pivotal for Democratic victories in the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential elections:

Even amid soaring participation from all major racial groups, Asian Americans increased their turnout by more than any other cohort, according to recently released studies by the Census Bureau and Catalist, a Democratic voter-targeting firm. In fact, no major demographic group in recent decades has increased its turnout from one election to the next as much as Asian Americans did from 2016 to 2020, the census found; not even Black voters grew that much from 2004 through to Barack Obama’s first election four years later.

Why the surge? It reflected both long-term investments from grassroots groups in organizing and the immediate threat that many Asian Americans felt from former President Donald Trump—including his policies to slash legal immigration and his racist labeling of the coronavirus as the “China virus” and even “kung flu.” Although Republicans retain pockets of strength in Asian communities, the party now faces the prospect that Trump’s words—and the link many experts see between them and the rising wave of anti-Asian hate crimes—could lastingly alienate many of the thousands of Asian Americans who voted for the first time last year.

“It’s become a defining moment for the Asian American community,” says Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at UC Riverside who studies Asian American political influence. “What you saw in 2020 was a forging of political consciousness among the younger generation that could carry [Democrats] through for years, if not decades, to come.”

Brownstein notes that “Asian Americans still represent a small sliver of the population in all but a few states. But census figures show that from 2010 to 2019, the group grew rapidly, increasing its population nationwide by nearly 30 percent, or just over 5 million people. In percentage terms, that was by far the biggest increase over the past decade for any major racial group. Among adult citizens eligible to vote, Asian Americans have doubled their share, from 2.5 percent in 2000 to 5 percent in 2020, according to calculations by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.”

And Asian American voters are showing some clout in unexpected places:

The states with the largest populations of eligible Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, Hawaii and California, are safely blue. But the groups’ numbers have also increased in Sun Belt states that are becoming tipping points in American elections. “Think about where we are growing the fastest: It’s Texas, it’s Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada,”  AAPI Victory Alliance Executive Director Varun Nikore told me.

The Asian American population isn’t nearly large enough to decide those states on its own. Although Asian Americans represent almost 9 percent of eligible voters in Nevada, they represent only about 3 percent in Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina, Frey shared with me. Yet the rise in voter participation has proved crucial for Democrats in several closely balanced states. A growing number of Asian American voters—mostly in the Washington, D.C., suburbs—were central to tilting Virginia blue over roughly the past 15 years. They played a comparable tipping-point role in Democrats’ victories in Georgia last year, at both the presidential and senatorial level. TargetSmart, a Democratic voter-targeting firm, calculates that some 60,000 more Asian Americans voted in the state in November than had in 2016—an increase that far exceeded Joe Biden’s narrow margin of victory there… “

And the turnout trendlines are in the right direction for Democrats. As Brownstein notes, “Nationwide, Asian Americans increased their turnout at an astounding pace last year—soaring from about 49 percent in 2016 to just over 59 percent, the census found…. In its recently released analysis of voter files nationwide, Catalist calculated that the total number of votes cast by Asian Americans grew from 2016 to 2020 by almost 40 percent, reaching about 7 million. TargetSmart, in its analysis, put the increase even higher, at about 47 percent.”

In a close race – national or local – any smaller demographic group can be decisive. It appears that Republicans have blown whatever hopes they had for gaining traction with Asian American voters, and that’s a good thing for Democrats, who now have even reasons for insuring that GOTV programs for them are well-funded.


Teixeira: Message Discipline Needed for Dems to Survive Midterm Elections

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

Right Now, You Should Be Asking Yourself: What Can I Do to Help Insulate Democrats in Competitive Districts from Blowback?

No, not even an economic revival, covid containment and some good legislation can guarantee, or even make it likely, that Democratic control of the House can survive the next election. Far from it. Democrats need not just a good record to run on but all the help they can get defusing the now predictable lines of attack that the GOP will wield. Sure, Republicans will make these attacks anyway. But the less real world referents for these attacks they have, the better off the Democrats will be.

Message discipline comrades, message discipline. All elections are now national! Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball runs down just how dicey the situation is for the Democrats in the House.

“Every state with more than one U.S. House district will be redrawing their district lines this cycle to account for population changes, and that process is on hold because of delays in the U.S. Census. The Census Bureau won’t be releasing the granular data states need to draw new maps until later this year. While some states are trying to get a head start — Oklahoma, for instance, drew new state legislative districts using older data — we likely will not get a good handle on what new maps will look like until the fall. Among those delayed by the stalled census is us: We have not released House ratings yet as we await the new districts.

On balance, we expect the reapportionment of House seats — which we analyzed late last month — to benefit Republicans to a small extent. Redistricting seems likely to also help Republicans. Given that the Democrats only won a 222-213 edge in the House last year, Republicans only need to net five seats to win the House. That kind of small gain could come from reapportionment and redistricting alone.

This doesn’t even take into account the usual advantages that the party that does not control the White House typically has in midterm House elections: Since the end of World War II, the average seat loss by the presidential party in midterms is 27 seats. In those 19 midterm elections, the presidential party has lost seats 17 times. The exceptions were 1998 and 2002, when the president’s party made small gains.

House Democrats are facing twin challenges next year: The overall consequences of reapportionment and redistricting, as well as midterm history. The combination of the two will be difficult for Democrats to overcome. But what if they only had to overcome one of these challenges? What if no district lines were changing? Could Democrats hold the House under the current map?….

The larger point of this exercise is that we would start many more Democratic-held seats as Toss-ups than Republican-held ones even if no district lines were changing.

Overall, these ratings show 211 districts at least leaning to the Republicans, 203 at least leaning to the Democrats, and 21 Toss-ups (19 held by Democrats, two held by Republicans). Splitting the Toss-ups roughly down the middle — let’s say 11-10 Republican — would result in a 222-213 Republican majority, good for a nine-seat Republican net gain and a narrow majority the same size as the one Democrats elected in November.

In other words, Republicans already appear set up to significantly threaten the Democratic House majority, and the net impact of reapportionment and redistricting may make their task easier. Republicans are not guaranteed to win the House next year, but the majority is clearly there for the taking.”

This may not be what people want to hear. But it is the reality we live in. Act accordingly.


New Rural Poll: Dems Not Getting Credit for Good Works

At Daily Kos, Aldous J. Pennyfarthing notes a new poll Democrats will find concerning, and comments:

Millions of people just live their lives, blissfully ignorant of the minutiae that go into spending bills meant to benefit them directly. They got their Biden Bucks, but they don’t necessarily know whom to credit.

To wit: $300 monthly child tax credits will start landing in people’s bank accounts in July, and most people have already gotten their $1,400 stimulus payments. While this much-needed relief is the work of Joe Biden and congressional Democrats (exclusively Democrats, in fact), not everyone in rural America has grokked what the Democratic Party has done for them.

Pennyfarthing quotes from a Washington Post report on the poll:

new poll of rural voters, commissioned by a super PAC that seeks to build support for Democrats in rural areas, underscores the point: It finds that a large percentage of rural voters in battleground states are not ascribing credit for stimulus payments to the Democratic Party.

The poll, which was conducted by YouGov for Rural Objective PAC, finds that only 50 percent of those rural voters associate “providing stimulus checks directly to families and workers” with the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, 32 percent of those rural voters associate this with the GOP, and another 11 percent associate it with neither party. That’s a total of 43 percent who don’t associate it with Democrats.
Pennyfarthing notes that “The poll was conducted in rural areas of nine 2022 Senate battlegrounds: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. And while Trump and Republicans did support stimulus payments last year, at the height of the pandemic-related economic crisis (as did Democrats, proving that our party supports helping people all the time, even when a president from the other party is poised to take credit), they balked when it came to the last round of payments—payments we should really be calling BIDEN BUCKS every chance we get.” Further,
“We’re not connecting with these voters, even if we have great policy,” J.D. Scholten, executive director of Rural Objective PAC, told the Post.

The poll also found that 68% of the rural voters surveyed supported the stimulus checks, but they’re not necessarily crediting Democrats.

The messaging problems don’t end there, of course. Despite a consistent push from Democrats to get rural areas outfitted with broadband—an initiative that’s strongly reflected in Biden’s infrastructure proposals—only 42% of rural voters associate broadband investments with Democrats, whereas 25% credit Republicans.

How can this be? Well, there are at least two big reasons for it.

First of all, because they have no shame nor honor, Republicans have been scrambling to take credit for Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which every single one of them voted against.

Pennyfarthing cites some examples of Republicans actually claiming credit for Democratic reforms, and adds:

There are so many more. Since Republicans are rarely punished by their “traditional values” voters for lying (which, to be fair, is a longstanding Republican tradition), it appears that they’re getting away with it.

Circling back to reasons why rural voters are crediting the GOP for the American Rescue Plan, people tend to underestimate exactly how much government help they actually get….We need to keep reminding folks that Democrats are better for their pocketbooks—and that this advantage isn’t limited to stimulus payments and infrastructure proposals. The past several decades prove that Democratic presidents—and policies—are better for the economy than Republican presidents, no matter what measure you look at.

If we can convince enough rural voters in purple states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona that Democrats are the ones who are actually on their side, maybe we can keep those states in the blue column for the foreseeable future.

Joe Biden’s policies are popular. We just have to make sure everyone knows they’re Democratic policies, or we’ll eventually cede control to a passel of lying scoundrels who want to spend the rest of their lives pissing on the heads of their constituents … while telling them it’s Trump Champagne.

Republicans have benefitted from messages du jour re-branding the Democratic Party in a negative light. With few exceptions, however, Democratic ads focus on candidates, but rarely on the differences between the two parties. It’s not enough for a party to have great policies. Democrats need to declare an all-out campaign to claim credit for their popular policies.