washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Strategist

Dann and Jennings: Will Democrats Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth?

The following article, by Marc Dann former Attorney General of Ohio and founding partner of Advocate Attorneys and Northeast Ohio political consultant and media specialist Leo Jennings III, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives. Dann and Jennings were part of the team that sued DeWine and the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

This has been a month of bad news for the Democratic Party. The conflicts around the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills and the November election results make clear that Republicans hold significant advantages with voters on critical issues including border security, crime, national security, and the economy.

As bad as the news has been, however, Republicans and their corporate benefactors may have recently handed Democrats a gift that will enable them to get off the mat and actually pick up seats in the House and Senate, take control of state legislatures, and evict Republicans from governor’s mansions—if they are smart enough to unwrap and use it.

The gift comes courtesy of the 25 GOP governors who earlier this year opted not to accept billions of dollars in fully federally funded supplemental unemployment benefits authorized by the American Rescue Act. As a result of their callous decision more than 4 million involuntarily unemployed Americans lost $300 in weekly payments they desperately needed. The Century Foundation estimated that families crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic would lose an average of $6,000 as a result of the benefit reduction.

Teixeira: Stick a Fork In ‘Em: The Exit Polls Are Done

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

G. Elliott Morris, the Economist data journalist, looked into some of the VA traditional exit poll claims and finds them, essentially, unbelievable. I agree.

“[The traditional exit polls show] show that Democrats made gains with Latino and Asian voters between 2020 and 2021 despite their declining vote share statewide. According to Edison, Youngkin won in Virginia because McAuliffe’s share of the two-party vote with whites fell by eight points relative to Biden’s share with the group last year.

This is not unbelievable in isolation. Eg, perhaps Latino voters were just particularly drawn to Trump last year, and so have now reverted to their typical Democratic lean. However, this is a weird result when you consider that it is rare for a party to improve significantly with a group when their overall vote share falls by six points over a year. Usually, the public moves in more parallel strides. (NB: There is more heterogeneity on longer time horizons, to be sure.)

The Edison exit poll starts looking a lot stranger once we look at swings among white voters by their education level. According to Edison, McAuliffe won just 24% of white voters without degrees. That’s compared to Joe Biden’s 38% just a year ago — making for a 14-point decline. And according to their exits, college-educated whites and voters of color did not change significantly since 2020:

OK, now things are starting to fail the smell test. Maybe you believe non-college-educated whites moved right since 2020. That is a reasonable assumption; Biden is less popular than he was a year ago and, after all, Democrats did lose the election! But do we really believe that the only group to change its political leaning since 2020 was whites without degrees? In an election where overall Democratic margin fell by ten points? That explanation falls flat even before we look at other evidence.

But if we do, the county and precinct-level results of the election are pretty damning of the exits. The two charts below show that Terry McAuliffe’s share of the vote fell by less relative to Joe Biden’s share of the vote in the counties with the highest percentages of non-college whites. Turnout was also down the least in places with a middling share of non-college whites.

How is this reconcilable with the exit poll? The short answer is that it’s not. While it is technically possible that white college-educated voters in counties with a lot of non-college whites are driving the trends in the figures above, that wouldn’t explain the full relationship. Besides, according to Edison, college-educated whites didn’t change their behavior at all since 2020! And there aren’t enough non-whites in these counties to drive significant trends either; the exits estimate voters of color made up just over a fourth of Virginian voters in 2021, and there are fewer of them in the counties with the highest shares of non-college whites.

As if this weren’t enough, friend of the blog Lenny Bronner (who runs the elections-forecasting models for the Washington Post) found that McAuliffe did worse versus Biden in the precincts with the most African Americans and Hispanics. This is a direct contradiction of the exit poll!”

Ridiculous. These data are just not trustworthy. And yet political journalists continue to write story after story based on them, since the traditional exit poll fielded by Edison still has dominant market share in the media. That should change. Until then, caveat emptor.

Democratic Strategists Are Asking the Wrong Question About the White Working Class

If you were a Democratic political strategist with a multi-million dollar budget for opinion research about the white working class, which question would you want to investigate?

  1. How can Democrats convince the white working class to vote Democratic?
  2. How can Democrats identify a distinct, persuadable sector of the white working class and then convince members of that specific group to vote Democratic?

The second question is obviously far more practical and more likely to lead to useful political strategies than the first. After all, in 2008 rough estimates suggest that around 40% of less than college white voters voted Democratic. This then declined to around 36% in 2012, 31% in 2016 and then rebounded slightly to 33% in 2020. Other more precise definitions of the term “working class” produce a somewhat higher but still similar pattern of results

If Democrats could simply regain the white working class vote share that they won in 2008, this would be adequate to win many elections that Dems now loose. As a result it is not necessary for Democrats to try to win a large majority of all white working class voters and certainly not to try to win passionate Trump supporters. It is just necessary to regain perhaps 10-15% of the white working class vote that once voted Democratic and now goes Republican.

The problem, however, is that virtually the entire Democratic strategic discussion in the media today asks the first question above rather than the second.

One dramatic example is the current debate about the white working class versus a “new” coalition of People of Color and pro-Democratic college educated whites. The debate, which has flowed from the New York Times, The Atlantic and the New Republic to  a range of progressive blogs, Substacks and other media, has pitted leading political data analysts like Nate Cohn, Ron Brownstein, Tom Edsall, Ruy Teixeira, David Shor and others against various advocates of the “new coalition” strategy.

To Read the Memo, Click Here.

Democrats Can Only Lose Again By Abandoning Their Agenda

In the wake of the disappointing 2021 off-year elections, I heard disturbing reactions from Democrats and responded at New York:

Things did not go well for Democrats in the 2021 elections. Most notably, Terry McAuliffe lost the governorship his party had held since 2009 in Virginia, a state that Joe Biden carried by ten points just last year; Democrats also lost the state lieutenant governor’s race, are behind in the state attorney general’s race, and may lose control of one chamber of the legislature. In New Jersey, Democratic governor Phil Murphy, expected to romp to an easy reelection, is in a near dead heat with Republican Jack Ciattarelli with the outcome still in doubt. And Democratic Senate president Steve Sweeney is in danger of losing to an anonymous schmo who barely even had a campaign. In New York, three Democratic-sponsored ballot initiatives aimed at making voting easier and simplifying redistricting went down to defeat. Happy days are not here again for the Donkey Party.

There are myriad factors that went into these disappointing but hardly atypical off-year setbacks, perhaps the most important being simply an age-old and nearly universal backlash against the party of newly elected presidents (Republicans got waxed in New Jersey and Virginia in 2017). And yes, such losses usually portend a poor showing in the upcoming midterm elections (the president’s party has lost U.S. House, Senate, and gubernatorial seats in the last four midterms).

But some narcissistic congressional Democrats seem to assume the bad Election Night is all about them, and they want to learn exactly the wrong lesson going forward. Punchbowl News reports:

“Numerous Democrats privately have told us they’re uneasy with the contours of the massive Build Better Act despite weeks of intra-party negotiations. They believe the party leadership is rushing through the final stages of these talks. Last night’s loss – or losses – won’t end Democrats’ quest to pass the massive reconciliation package, but it will certainly impact it. Pelosi and her leadership team were hoping for floor passage this week. However, Tuesday losses will give new heft to those voices that have been suggesting the speaker slow the agenda down and bring it back to the center.”

“Bring it back to the center” is code for reducing the size, scope, and ambition of the Build Back Better package, which has, as a matter of fact, already happened thanks to the demands of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and their House allies. Some of these same “centrist” Democrats typically think House passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill would send some sort of important signal to voters, and they may even be under the illusion that the Virginians who elected Youngkin in a high-turnout contest were somehow longing for the roads and bridges they have been denied. (To be clear, some Democrats thought of as “centrists” or “moderates,” like the Third Way organization, have rejected the let’s-do-less mantra emphatically).

Actually, the House progressives with whom the centrists are battling fully plan to vote for the infrastructure bill, perhaps even without conditions. But the single quickest way to show Democrats can get something done is to unlock the logjam by reaching quick agreement on BBB and then immediately passing the infrastructure bill. That’s the opposite of “suggesting the speaker slow the agenda down.”

Beyond that, Democratic centrists need to get out of the habit of thinking that voters are watching their every move and will reward or punish them instantly for too much perceived liberalism. Even before the November 2 setbacks, the odds of Democrats holding on to their trifecta in 2022 were extremely low. On the two occasions since 1934 when the president’s party gained House seats in a midterm, the president in question (Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002) enjoyed approval ratings in the 60s. In this polarized moment of American political history, Joe Biden couldn’t match their numbers even if COVID-19 disappeared, the economy boomed, friendly unicorns romped across the landscape, and lollipops dropped from the sky. Instead of decimating their own agenda in an uninformed and likely vain effort to head off the inevitable, congressional Democrats should focus on what they can accomplish in this fleeting moment of power, which may not recur for years. Lowering their sights and abandoning legislative goals — goals whose achievement actually may, for all we know, make them more popular in 2022 — gives Republicans an anticipatory victory they have by no means earned.

Losing elections is painful, and as my colleague Eric Levitz points out, the 2021 defeats are particularly painful because Republicans have never paid the price for their obeisance to the outlaw president who may yet head up their next presidential ticket. There could be discrete lessons to be learned from what happened on November 2, including the inadequacy of a playbook that focused too much on COVID-19 mandate debates and the specter of Trump, who wasn’t on the ballot. And more generally, Democrats need to adjust to the fact that we are in a period of high voter engagement in which just inflaming your own base won’t be enough.

But there is no sensible interpretation of the 2021 defeats that suggests a muddled, cramped, confusing, diminished, or delayed legislative agenda will save Democrats in 2022 and beyond. They still have a good chance to hang on to the White House in 2024; after all, Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama won reelection after terrible midterm performances by their party. But more importantly, they need to remember the purpose of political power: to accomplish things they cannot get done in opposition or in periods of divided government. The future truly is right now.

Political Strategy Notes

In his post mortem on Tuesday’s two governorship elections, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “All of Tuesday’s portents were negative. In both Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans were energized and Democrats were indifferent….In Virginia’s GOP rural precincts, the places where Donald Trump is still a hero, voters surged to polling places in a tidal wave….Democrats, particularly young and Black voters, stayed away, making up a far smaller share of the electorate than they did a year ago….in the end, exit polling made clear, hostility to Biden mattered more than alarm over Trump….But McAuliffe cannot simply blame the president or a dithering Democratic Congress for failing to enact the president’s program in a timely way — even if they have much to answer for….McAuliffe will no doubt long regret 12 words that Youngkin played back again and again in advertising that blanketed the state: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”…It was a dismissive formulation that made it far harder for McAuliffe to push back against Youngkin’s demagogic attack on critical race theory, which is not taught in Virginia’s schools….McAuliffe was not wrong to describe Youngkin’s appeal as “a racist dog whistle.”….But Democrats and progressives need a much better answer to parental discontent….They also have to make a compelling argument for how schools can offer an honest accounting of the role of racism in American life that also honors the country’s achievements. They cannot continue to let Trumpists dominate this discussion….One thing Democrats should not do: tear themselves apart with arguments over critical race theory itself, a set of ideas far better debated in law schools and graduate schools than at school board meetings….Democrats would also be foolish to litigate whether moderates or progressives in Congress are most to blame for McAuliffe’s loss and the surprisingly weak showing of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in New Jersey. They must all take responsibility for the unconscionable delays in enacting the president’s program. So must Biden.”….Democrats must move swiftly to enact and defend the president’s program, and Senate Democrats cannot allow the filibuster to block action on voting rights, now a more urgent cause than ever. Republican state governments will continue to throw up roadblocks to voting — and Black voters who were key to Biden’s victory will not forgive the president or his party if they just walk away from the pivotal civil rights battle of our time.”

In Judy Woodruff’s interview on PBS, James Carville explained it this way: “Well, what went wrong is this stupid wokeness. All right? Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis. Even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean, this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools, that — people see that….Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something. They’re expressing language that people just don’t use. And there’s a backlash and a frustration at that….Youngkin never ran any ads against Biden. And I think what he did is just let the Democrats pull the pin and watch the grenade go off on them….And we have got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws. And these faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what are — they’re not working….Who could even think of something that stupid? And they’re suppressing our vote. And I have got news for you. You’re hurting the party. You’re hurting the very people that you want to help….And Terry got caught up. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s a good guy. He got caught up in something national, and we have got to change this internally, in my view.”…There’s a ton of pent-up demand in this economy. I’m just not one of these people that thinks that we’re necessarily doomed in 2022….We could have a roaring economy. This Build Back Better is going to give people a lot of confidence.And as long as we talk about things that are relevant to people and understand what they’re going through in their lives and get rid of this left-wing nonsense, this claptrap I hear, I think we can be fine….These people have got to understand they’re not popular around the country. People don’t like them. And they’re voting because that’s the only way that they can express themselves and how much they disagree with this….People don’t want to ride in the car with you. They don’t want to ride next to you in the subway….You’re annoying people. And they got to understand that. It’s very important….every Democrat wants to be a policy maven. No one wants to be a salesperson….Well, you got to get out there and sell your product and tell people what’s in it and quit worrying about being in the policy shop or being some self-important bureaucrat. That’s what I think.”

From Ronald Brownstein’s take on the elections at The Atlantic: “The Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race and the unexpectedly close result in New Jersey’s—both states Biden won comfortably last year—don’t guarantee a midterm wipeout for Democrats in 2022. Rather, the sweeping Republican advance in both states more likely previews the problems Democrats will have next November if the political environment doesn’t improve for Biden….Glenn Youngkin, benefited from a huge gaffe by Democrat Terry McAuliffe that seemed to dismiss the role of parents in shaping their kids’ education. But above all, the results reinforced the conclusion that in modern U.S. politics, it’s becoming almost impossible for candidates to escape the shadow of attitudes about the incumbent president, for good or ill….Compared with Biden’s sweeping 2020 win, the exit polls did show Youngkin gaining ground with independents, college-educated white men, and especially white voters without a college degree, both men and women….Even with Youngkin’s marginal gains in the center, both the exit polls and actual results suggest instead that McAuliffe’s biggest problems were explosive turnout and huge deficits in the parts of the state most alienated from Biden and the Democrats who now control Washington. Turnout in Republican-leaning places was so strong that the share of the statewide vote cast by the blue-leaning big five Northern Virginia counties declined this year after steadily rising over the past three governor’s races….For the majority of Democratic elected officials and strategists, the most immediate lesson of Tuesday’s tough night is that the party needs to finally pass Biden’s economic agenda—which they hope will both assuage doubts about the president’s competence and provide them a list of tangible programs they can take to voters next year, including an expanded child tax credit and child-care subsidies and plans to lower prescription-drug prices.”

“Although public polling on immigration shows a strong shift to the left, survey responses in that vein mask a far more complicated reality, Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column. “Over and over again, immigration has proved to be politically problematic for Democrats. As far back as 2007, when he was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rahm Emanuel warned that immigration had become the new “third rail of American politics.”….The reality of the politics of immigration stands in contrast to the more positive Gallup findings that the percentage of people describing immigration as a “good thing” grew to 75 percent in 2021 from 52 percent in 2001, and the percentage describing it as a “bad thing” fell to 21 percent from 31 percent. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of voters who say immigration should be increased grew to 33 percent from 10 percent, while the share who said it should be decreased fell to 31 percent from 43 percent. The percentage saying immigration levels should be left unchanged remained relatively constant over these two decades, ranging from the mid-30s to the low 40s.” Edsall quotes Ryan Enos, a professor of government at Harvard, who contends, “The question for the future of the broader consensus on immigration is whether Republicans can continue to be successful despite the anti-immigrant pandering that is largely out of step with the broad American consensus on immigration. If they are electorally successful — and there is reason to believe they will be, given forecasts for Democratic losses in 2022 — then this broad consensus might break down permanently and a large portion of the American public may follow their Republican leaders toward more fully adopting anti-immigrant ideology.”

Painful Lessons for Dems from VA and NJ

From “8 takeaways from the 2021 elections” by Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica at CNN Politics:

“Youngkin drafted a playbook for Republicans to navigate around Trump — keeping the former President’s base energized while also winning back a share of suburbanites who had fled the party during Trump’s tenure….[Youngkin] tapped into the brewing culture war over education. He appealed to conservatives steeped in the right-wing media ecosystem by promising to ban critical race theory, which isn’t taught in Virginia schools; to end coronavirus-related school shutdowns and mask mandates; and to launch an expansive charter school program. He also won over moderates by pledging an education budget with money for teacher raises — a core theme in his television ads — and special education….the pandemic appears to be fading as a driving factor at the ballot box….McAuliffe went all-in on linking Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump and it failed.”

The NJ governor’s race is still razor close as of this writing, but it shouldn’t be. Youngkin’s 2.5 percent margin of victory in VA could get just a little bigger or smaller, when the last votes are counted.

When the margin is that small, you can blame a host of factors, including the BBB and infrastructure circus, Biden’s tanking approval ratings, Youngkin’s impressive campaign skills, McAuliffe’s stale candidate persona, inflation, weak Democratic GOTV, or some combination thereof. Some of those factors likely hurt Democratic Gov. Murphy in NJ as well.

But there’s no denying that the Youngkin campaign skillfully deployed a duplicitous, but effective attack  on “critical race theory,” their code for a ‘don’t guilt-trip today’s white school kids for the racism of the past’ message. We will likely see more of it in upcoming campaigns. Democrats have to develop a better response, including a more effective attack strategy of their own.

Teixeira: Youngkin Takes Lead in Virginia

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

Yes, the polls could be off but it’s not a good sign for McAuliffe that the polling has steadily trended against him and that the polling average, according to 538, now puts Youngkin in a slight lead.

We’ll see who prevails on election day but it seems fair to say that this race is now a toss-up when it wasn’t supposed to be. And that furthermore Youngkin’s elevation of the education issue has just flat-out worked. Right now, polls have Youngkin way ahead among independents (+22 in the Fox News Poll, +18 in the Washington Post poll, +17 in the Echelon Insights poll) and, as Mona Charen notes at The Bulwark:

“[T]he issue that has arguably done the most harm to McAuliffe is education. Remember those independent and female voters who have moved so strongly toward Youngkin? That has coincided with the rise of education as a campaign issue. Women usually rank education as more important than men do. Between September and October, the number of Virginians listing education as a priority rose from 31 to 41 percent.”

In the Echelon Insights poll, Youngkin is ahead of McAuliffe by 6 points on who is trusted on education and leads by 15 points (!) on that issue among K-12 parents.

The typical response among Democrats is that the issues raised by Youngkin on education are non-issues that amount to “racist dog whistles”. This leaves Democrats powerless to figure out a way to respond to Republican attacks beyond accusing parents who might be worried about these issues of being racists. This is not effective as the Virginia campaign is showing. It’s the Fox News Fallacy in action, as I have written previously–assuming anything raised by conservatives must be completely without merit and stern denunciation is the only option.

David Brooks puts his finger on something that most liberals are loathe to admit–clashes in the area of education are not simply a battle of good against evil but to a large extent a clash of subcultures where many, many voters do not find the progressive subculture an attractive alternative–and for some pretty good reasons.

“On behalf of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Jeremy Stern reviewed the 50 state history standards in 2011 and then again in 2021. To his pleasant surprise, he found that the standards were growing more honest. States were doing a better job at noting America’s sins along with its achievements. The states that had the best civics and history standards were as likely to be red as blue: Alabama, California, Massachusetts and Tennessee (D.C. scored equally well).

In my experience, most teachers find ways to teach American history in this way, and most parents support it — 78 percent of Americans support teaching high schoolers about slavery, according to a 2021 Reuters/Ipsos poll.

But the progressive subculture has promoted ideas that go far beyond this and often divide the races into crude, essentialist categories.

A training for Loudoun County, Va., public school administrators taught that “fostering independence and individual achievement” is a hallmark of “white individualism.”

A Williams College professor told The Times last week, “This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.”

If you want to stage a radical critique of individualism and intellectual rigor, be my guest, but things get problematic when you assign the “good” side of this tension to one racial category and the “bad” side to another racial category.

It is also becoming more common to staple a highly controversial ideological superstructure onto the quest for racial justice. We’re all by now familiar with some of the ideas that constitute this ideological superstructure: History is mainly the story of power struggles between oppressor and oppressed groups; the history of Western civilization involves a uniquely brutal pattern of oppression; language is frequently a weapon in this oppression and must sometimes be regulated to ensure safety; actions and statements that do not explicitly challenge systems of oppression are racist; the way to address racism is to heighten white people’s awareness of their own toxic whiteness, so they can purge it.

Today a lot of parents have trouble knowing what’s going on in their kids’ classrooms. Is it a balanced telling of history or the gospel according to Robin DiAngelo?

When they challenge what they sense is happening, they meet a few common responses. They are told, as by Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach. They are told they are racist. Or they are blithely assured that there is nothing radical going on — when in fact there might be.

Parents and legislators often respond with a lot of nonsense about critical race theory and sometimes by legalizing their own forms of ideological censorship. But their core intuition is not crazy: One subculture is sometimes using its cultural power to try to make its views dominant, often through intimidation.

When people sense that those with cultural power are imposing ideologies on their own families, you can expect the reaction will be swift and fierce.”

I suspect this is part of what we’re seeing the Virginia race. It’s a sign Democrats need to take off their progressive subculture blinders and deal with the complex reality of public opinion on difficult issues.

Political Strategy Notes

One of the reasons we ofen quote E. J. Dionne Jr. at TDS is that the Democrats are a party that frequently needs adult supervision (although that’s better than the GOP, which is in urgent need of psychiatric care for their abusive daddy issues). In Dionne’s current WaPo column, “Take the win, Democrats, and don’t look back,” he writes, “Celebrate victory. Explain what you’ve achieved. Defend it from attack. Change the public conversation in your favor. Build on success to make more progress. And for God’s sake, don’t moan about what might have been….President Biden and Democrats in Congress are on the cusp of ending their long journey through legislative hell by enacting a remarkable list of practical, progressive programs….This will confront them with a choice. They can follow the well-tested rules for champions of social change. Or they can repeat past mistakes by letting their opponents define what they have done and complain about the things left undone….Passing Biden’s program and defending it successfully offer all wings of his party the best opportunity they will have to push the day-to-day dialogue toward the tangible and the achievable….Begin with the basics: Trump spent four years promising investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure. Biden got it done with bipartisan support.” Sound advice. And it wouldn’t hurt if Democratic moderates and progressives would stop sniping at each other.

Dionne also has some salient comments about tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Virginia and its effect of Democratic maturity and unity: “A victory by Republican Glenn Youngkin in Tuesday’s Virginia governor’s race would unleash recriminations guaranteed to make this task even harder. If Democrat Terry McAuliffe hangs on to win, it will be Republicans forced into soul-searching about the steep costs of their continuing fealty to Donald Trump….But however it turns out, the Virginia contest should force Democrats to confront the imperative of shifting the terms of the political debate. In a state Biden carried by 10 points, Youngkin managed to dominate the campaign’s final weeks with a shameful focus on critical race theory — which is not taught anywhere in the state — and the suppression of challenging books in high school curriculums….Youngkin’s trafficking in racial backlash could work as well as it did, because Democrats have fallen short in fulfilling one of the most important aspirations of the Biden era. They hoped that politics could be defined more by how government can get useful things done and less by manufactured issues that promote moral panic among conservatives and sharpen divisions around race, immigration and culture.” I would add only that a McAuliffe win would lend some cred to the ‘demographics is destiny’ argument, particularly when favorable demographic transformation is accompanied by solid strategy and fierce GOTV.

Charlie Cook sees it this way at The Cook Political Report: “What many progressive Democrats did not seem to realize is that while they were busy holding Biden’s spending package hostage—one that would have addressed badly needed infrastructure needs that have gone unaddressed for three decades—public concern about the direction of the economy surged, putting Democratic House and Senate majorities in real danger, and putting the Virginia governorship in considerably more danger than it should have been. If Democrats lose that governorship, it will feel like an earthquake just hit at the Democratic National Committee headquarters….While progressives did their party considerably more damage than they realize, it is a mistake to relieve Biden and Democratic congressional leaders of their share of culpability. Biden has been trying to emulate Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, yet it’s hard to imagine either of those presidents or their respective party leaders on the Hill putting up with their rank-and-file members sabotaging a signature piece of presidential legislation and making their own president appear politically impotent….Had Democrats simply pushed through the hard-infrastructure package—the streets, bridges, water systems, ports, airports, and broadband expansions that have broad, bipartisan support—then pushed a more modestly sized social-spending measure, both their party and their president would be seen in a considerably better light than they are today and their majority would be in less danger.”

A pretty good historical perspective and video update on the Virginia race from Jeff Greenfield:

Another Sign of Republican Extremism on Abortion from Missouri

Not too long after Todd Akin’s death, it’s clear the example he set for the disaster of abortion extremism hasn’t taught Missouri Republicans much, as I explained at New York:

With the U.S. Supreme Court quite possibly on the brink of abolishing federal reproductive rights and returning abortion policy to the states, it’s alarming to note that the anti-abortion movement is becoming even more radical about what it intends to do with that power if it gets it. Most notably, the once-standard exceptions for victims of rape and incest are disappearing from the state abortion bans that would leap to life if SCOTUS permits them to. Both the Texas and Mississippi laws before the Court this term have no rape or incest exceptions.

Supporters of these bans, particularly if they are candidates or elected officials, don’t usually like to talk about them; when they do, they certainly don’t like to talk about forcing a victim of rape or incest to carry a pregnancy to term. But in what is perhaps a sign of the times, Missouri Senate candidate Mark McCloskey — better known as the lawyer who pointed a rifle at Black Lives Matter demonstrators passing his mansion last summer — went out of his way to position himself as an abortion extremist by talking about banning abortion for a teenage victim of incestuous rape, as the Kansas City Star reports:

“He made the comments in response to an audience member’s question at a forum in Osage Beach. ‘There’s a lot of candidates that say they’re pro-life, but really they’re not completely pro-life,’ the woman in the audience said, according to a video of the event posted on Facebook. ‘There’s a lot of, ‘Well in this case, it would be allowed.’”

“McCloskey, a St. Louis personal-injury attorney, responded that he doesn’t ‘believe in any exceptions.’ ‘We were down in Poplar Bluff a couple of months ago, and somebody asked me that question, “So you would force a 13-year-old who’s raped by a family member to keep that baby?’” he said. “And I said, ‘Yes, and more than that, I’ve got that client.’ I’ve got a client who was raped by an uncle when she was 13 years old, had the child; she finished high school, finished college, and got a master’s degree.”

McCloskey seems to be very firm in his belief that teenagers should be forced to carry pregnancies to term in all cases, making this unusual analogy in the same appearance:

“He said it had bothered him ‘as long ago as when I was in grade school’ that some death-penalty opponents also support abortion rights. His comments received applause from the audience. ‘The justice of the Supreme Court in the most heinous crimes don’t have the right to decide who should live and die,’ he said. ‘But every 13-year-old girl on the street should be able to decide the fate of the life of their child?’”

Clearly, McCloskey thinks male Republican lawmakers should have that power. But he barely stands out among his rivals for the Republican Senate nomination. Disgraced former governor Eric Greitens calls himself “100 percent pro-life” and boasts that he forced the legislature into a special session on abortion. Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt has been defending his state’s own extreme abortion law (which also has no rape or incest exceptions) in court. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler is a favorite of the hard-line anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, and Congressman Billy Long is another “100 percent pro-life” Republican who has specialized in fighting publicly funded abortions. Nary a “moderate” in the bunch.

It’s all a bit amazing since Missouri provided one of the most graphic illustrations of the political perils of anti-abortion extremism in 2012, when Senate candidate Todd Akin blew up his candidacy while defending his own position against rape exceptions for abortion bans. Akin famously tried to argue that any woman who had experienced “legitimate rape” wouldn’t get pregnant, implying those who did must somehow have asked to be raped. But even he didn’t blithely go for the crazy-train trifecta of commandeering the bodies of 13-year-olds raped by their own family members. But Mark McCloskey did.

A Call for Activism to Pass the ‘Build Back Better’ Agenda and Elect More Democrats

In “Build Back Better Act is historic. Daily Kos has set up a historic campaign to pass it,” Paul Hogarth calls for for energized citizen activism to pass the Democratic infrastructure and social spending legislation and elect more Democrats in the midterms. As Hogarth writes:

President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda may be the largest and most substantive social legislation since the New Deal and Great Society.

Passing it will make transformative investments in jobs, the care economy (including child care and pre-K, the child tax credit, home care, and more), combating climate change, delivering relief for millions of immigrants, and much more. That’s why Daily Kos has put all of our resources to help make it pass.

Since March, Daily Kos has generated 1.81 million constituent lettersto House and Senate Democrats, over half a million petition signatures, and more than 35,000 constituent phone calls — all in support of a big, bold, and green measure that can reshape our country.

Throughout it all, we have focused on the issues and how this legislation will benefit millions of people. And it’s why we need you to keep contacting your members of Congress.

After it passes, the Build Back Better Act will aggressively fight climate change, cut child poverty, expand health care access, offer education opportunities, build affordable housing, provide for our child and elder care workers and help immigrants who work hard every day.

In a perfect world, Congress would pass each of these priorities in about 10 different bills that we could separately celebrate each passage. But because the Senate filibuster requires an impossible hurdle of 60 votes on anything, we had to stuff as much of the policy agenda into one budget reconciliation bill that can bypass Republican obstruction and become law.

Hogarth adds that “we refused to let the Build Back Better Act be defined by a dollar amount: what the bill accomplishes is what matters….What mattered most was what would be in the bill on a substantive policy level that helps people.”

Hogarth concludes, “We will fight hard to the bitter end to keep it as big, bold, and green as possible to deliver for the American people. And whatever we don’t get into the bill, we will fight to elect more Democrats in 2022—and repeal the filibuster in the Senate.”