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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

September 25, 2023

Political Strategy Notes

From “Who are the working class and how will they vote in 2024?” by Lois M. Collins and Suzanne Bates at Deseret News: “America’s working class are still not particularly wowed by the government and are often just plain frustrated. In the poll, 64% of registered voters who identify as part of the working class say the country is on the wrong track, compared to 27% who say it’s on the right track. And a full 52% say their personal financial situation is getting worse, compared to only 20% who say their situation is improving….What makes someone feel like they’re in the working class instead of the middle class? It’s likely related to a feeling of living on the edge financially, according to Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life at American Enterprise Institute….This group has shifted in recent years. While the working class used to be considered solidly in the Democrats’ column, slightly more now say they lean Republican. That was evident in the Deseret News/HarrisX poll, with 40% of working class voters saying the Republican Party best represents their interests and views, compared to 36% who say the Democratic Party is a better fit. Voters who describe themselves as middle class most identified with the Republican Party, at 43% compared to 34% for Democrats, while self-identified upper class voters by far leaned most toward the Democrats, with 56% saying the party best represents their views, compared to 28% saying the same about Republicans….“How people self-identify, and the labels they naturally coalesce around, tells you a lot about their social engagement and the pressures, motivations, and values that drive their voice and their vote,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX, which conducted the poll. “It also defines how politicians speak to them.”….When we polled 2,178 U.S. adults in mid-April, we found 15% identified as “working class,” while another 15% said they’re lower middle class and just 5% categorized themselves as working poor. Some polls lump those together in different configurations — usually the working class and lower middle class, creating a group that includes not quite one-third of Americans. Gallup did that in May 2022 and said about one-third of Americans identify as working class.”

Collins and Bates write further, “Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute, is a Democrat who has recently been critical of his party over their treatment of the working class. He said Democrats are preoccupied with what he calls “cultural radicalism,” which has alienated some of the working class voters who once made up their base. This shift gathered steam under Trump, who was a top choice among 48% of working class voters — by far the highest number — when asked to select from a list of which politicians best represent their interests and views, in the Deseret News/HarrisX survey…. Teixeira said many people think Republicans and Trump just appeal to white working class voters, but he said he’s seeing a shift among Latino and Black working class voters as well….Their support for Trump isn’t so much about policy, but rather about his willingness to take on the “elites,” Teixeira said, and for voters who feel alienated, that message resonates….“I thought the failure to understand this, and to basically write off all the Trump voters as a bunch of reactionary racists … I thought was a big mistake, analytically, even politically. And I think nothing has really improved too much since then,” he said….For Democrats to recapture this voting group, they need to focus again on an economic message rather than on cultural issues, he said….His colleague at AEI, Karlyn Bowman, a distinguished senior fellow, echoed his thoughts. After reviewing results of the survey, she said she saw an “extraordinary” amount of pessimism among working class voters….“The economy is the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 issue for most Americans right now, as it is for the working class, too,” she said….Most working class are not college educated, but more than 1 in 4 are, including Aubrey Mitchell, who got a bachelor’s degree in community health education, and urged Josh to earn his general associate’s degree (30% of the working class have completed some college but did not graduate) although college was never his long-term goal. It’s a good fallback, he said, so he’s glad he completed it, even if he doesn’t use it. The vast majority of the working class have high school diplomas or better, at 95%….Most work or are looking for work, though 22% of the survey’s working class have retired.”

In “Can Democrats Win Back the Working Class? Four ways they can at least help stop the bleeding” at Slow Boring,  Jared Abbott and Fred Deveaux write: “Democrats have begun to recognize that they have a working-class problem, but it remains unclear how to solve it. We ran an experiment to find out (you can find the full report “Trump’s Kryptonite” here)….Our results suggest that Democrats can reach working-class voters by running candidates from working-class backgrounds who center working-people in their campaign rhetoric, call out economic elites, focus on the need for more and better jobs, and distance themselves from the Democratic Party establishment….Although most commentaries on the Democrats’ working-class problem have focused on working-class white voters, the last several election cycles suggest that Democrats have a working-class problem tout court. For instance, the progressive data analytics firm Catalist found Trump’s vote share among working-class (non-college) voters of color jumped six percentage points between 2016 and 2020, with both Black and especially Latino voters shifting toward Trump. Similarly, a comprehensive precinct-level analysis of 2020 voting patterns in high-Latino districts found that support for Trump in 2020 surged even in precincts with the highest number of Latino immigrants. These developments all challenge the widely-held notion that the US’s emerging majority-minority population will save the Democratic Party….What’s more, Democrats’ woes with working-class voters extend far beyond the rural and small-town voters many pundits have placed at the center of this story. Indeed, recent analyses indicate that the party faces a “ticking time bomb” with urban working-class voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where both turnout and Democratic vote shares in 2020 were down relative to 2012….Our analysis of data from the Comparative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) and General Social Survey (GSS) survey shows similar trends. First, working-class disillusionment with the Democrats appears to have set in as early as the 1980s, with the percentage of working-class Americans (measured by occupation) who identified with the party falling from a high of around 65% in the 1970s to south of 40% by 2022. And since we find no comparable trend among middle/upper-class Americans—hose identification with the Democratic Party has fluctuated narrowly between the low and high 40s since the early 1980s—it seems this secular dealignment is a specifically working-class phenomenon….”

“So how can Democrats appeal more effectively to working-class voters?,” Abbott and Deveaux ask. “We asked 1,650 Americans to evaluate pairs of hypothetical Democratic candidates. Each candidate was randomly assigned demographic attributes, such as race, gender, and previous occupation, as well as policy positions and a rhetorical style. After comparing each pair, respondents reported which one they preferred. We limited our analysis to focus only on voters who do not describe themselves as “strong partisans,” and therefore are most likely to change their voting behavior from one year to the next and play a pivotal role in deciding elections….Our results indicate that Democratic candidates can do four things to appeal to working-class voters across the political spectrum.

  1. Run working-class candidates. All else equal, working-class voters prefer candidates from non-elite, working-class occupations (middle school teachers, construction workers, nurses, and warehouse workers) over those from elite, upper-class occupations (corporate executives, lawyers, and doctors).
  1. Focus on messages that champion the working class and critique economic elites. We found that working-class voters prefer candidates who say they will serve the interests of the working class and who place blame for the problems facing working Americans on the shoulders of economic elites. In results we do not show here, we find that this economic populist message is particularly effective among working-class respondents who work in manual jobs, a group that Democrats increasingly struggle to reach.
  1. Run on a jobs-first program. Working-class voters viewed more favorably candidates who highlighted a progressive federal jobs guarantee rather than one of the moderate economic policies we included in the survey (a small tax increase on the rich, a $15 minimum wage, and a jobs training program through small businesses). And this result was not limited to working-class Democrats. Indeed, the only policy we tested that was viewed positively by working-class respondents across the political spectrum was the progressive federal jobs guarantee—though working-class Republicans were slightly more favorable toward candidates who ran on the moderate job training program. Candidates who centered jobs were also favored by a range of other key constituencies from whom Democrats need to maintain or improve support, including African Americans, recent swing voters, low-engagement voters, non-college voters, and rural voters. Unfortunately, however, in our analysis of 2022 Democratic television ads, we found that just 18% even mentioned jobs.
  1. Take a critical stance towards both parties. Candidates who explicitly criticized the Democratic and Republican Parties for being out of touch with working- and middle-class Americans were viewed more favorably across the board compared to candidates who either said nothing or stressed that Democrats have delivered for working- and middle-class Americans (proud Democrat in the graphic below). Importantly, these results are not simply driven by voters who lean Republican, but also Independents and those who lean Democrat.”

Abortion Rights Still a Key Concern in Swing Districts

If you were wondering how the abortion rights issue is playing as a potential game-changer in southern congressional districts, check out “In swing districts, NC’s new abortion law is already having an impact. Here’s how” by Avi Bajpai and Genna Contino at The Charlotte Observer. As they write:

Around Wilmington, the impending passage of a 12-week abortion ban last month energized Democrats and supporters of abortion rights to keep up the pressure on Republicans. That meant over the course of one day calling and emailing the offices of three state lawmakers representing the area, every three minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as helping Planned Parenthood raise nearly $140,000 in one day, according to Jill Hopman, chair of the New Hanover County Democratic Party.

“If I had to pick a silver lining, the response towards mobilization and activism over the past month and a half has been exponential compared to the past,” Hopman said.

Certainly it’s good news for Democrats that the issue still has political traction this long after the Dobbs decision. But that’s no guarantee that it will be a priority for swing voters in the Fall of 2024.

Bajpai and Contino note that things have gotten a bit hot for abortion rights opponents in NC’s swing districts.

“On the receiving end were Republicans like Rep. Ted Davis, a retired attorney in Wilmington who has served in the House for more than a decade. Davis said in the days leading up to the May 16 vote to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, he received more than 5,000 phone calls, emails, and texts from his district, across the state, and outside of it as well.

Davis said he had never before received such an outpouring of response from constituents, which he said included impassioned messages from people on both sides of the issue who felt strongly about the bill, but also “some of the ugliest comments against me and my family.”

“How the new law is being received by voters will be especially important next year in swing districts where races are decided by thin margins,” argue Contino and Bajpai. Further,

When he vetoed the abortion bill last month, Cooper targeted Davis and three other GOP lawmakers who he said had violated campaign promises to keep the existing 20-week law in place, visiting their Wilmington and Charlotte-area districts to put pressure on the Republicans and try to get even one of them to vote to sustain his veto.

That didn’t happen, and the law is going into effect, but those parts of the state will be important targets for both parties leading up to the 2024 elections.

The law, which reduces the timeframe for when most abortions are allowed from 20 weeks to 12 weeks and goes into effect on July 1, is expected to be a major, campaign-defining issue for Democrats, who have vowed to fight the new restrictions. For Republicans, abortion politics will undoubtedly look different, with some candidates expected to divert attention from the new law and focus on other issues, and others expected to proactively campaign on enacting even stricter laws.

Bajpai and Contino note that “A new poll released Wednesday by Elon University, in partnership with The N&O and The Charlotte Observer, asked 1,268 registered North Carolina voters how they felt about the new law. In it, 45% of voters said they opposed the law, while 23% said they supported it. The remaining 33% said they neither supported nor opposed the new restrictions.” However, “When they heard details about the law, support for it grew to 36%, but opposition held steady at 45%.”

“In the days after Republicans passed the bill and sent it to Cooper’s desk,” Bajpai and Contino write, “the term-limited governor repeatedly called out Wilmington-area lawmakers Davis and Sen. Michael Lee, and Charlotte-area Reps. John Bradford and Tricia Cotham, for supporting their party’s abortion bill.”

Further, “in areas like Wilmington, Democrats have been encouraged by the strong opposition to the law that has surfaced.

Chairman of the New Hanover County Democrats Jill Hopman adds, “I do think Republicans are overplaying their hand, kind of like overturning Roe, as we’ve seen in other states from Wisconsin to Kansas…We’ve had this lawfully since the early ‘70s, and I don’t think people really think about the consequences until they make giant changes like this.”

The attitudes spotlighted by Contino and Bajpai are generally in keeping with a recent opinion polls, nationwide, although moderated in southern states.

Conservative churches, which often oppose abortion rights, still hold a lot of sway in the rural south. In urban and suburban districts in the south, however, polling and election data indicate that abortion rights is still an issue that Democrats can leverage for favorable outcomes.

For Dems, Less is More in Commenting on Trump’s Legal Disasters

From “Dems Have a Trump Indictment Strategy: Shut Your Damn Mouth” by Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast:

It might take a Democratic campaign staffer just a few minutes to write the script for a scorching attack ad based on the federal indictment of Donald Trump and his alleged conduct handling classified documents.

The allegations that Trump swiped top secret materials about military and nuclear capabilities, waved them around to guests at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and stored them in bathrooms might constitute as compelling and concise a case against his re-election as exists.

Yet, it’s possible—even very likely—that such an attack ad will never be made in the context of the 2024 presidential campaign.

It’s something like the ultimate catch-22 for Democrats: Although the facts in the indictment could have a unique potency in the race, they can’t talk about them for fear of risking the integrity of a case that Republicans have attacked as a politically motivated ploy to derail Trump.

….President Joe Biden has consistently declined to comment on the work of Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the indictment. Over the weekend, Biden claimed he had not spoken with Attorney General Merrick Garland about it. And his White House has long stated that he had no role in Department of Justice probes both into Trump’s handling of classified documents and his own, which is being led by Special Counsel Robert Hur.

Brodey adds that “there is a consensus developing among some Democrats that they are better served by ignoring the indictment and focusing on Biden’s record.”

“The calculus everyone is making right now is: Shut the fuck up, let the Republicans kill each other, let things play out while we focus on Biden’s accomplishments and economic wins—and let that in itself be the contrast,” said a Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to candidly describe the mood in their circles….If anything, one Democratic operative said, the party’s top task will be to connect the indictment to a broader framing that has proven politically potent for them: emphasizing what House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calls the “Team Normal” versus “Team Extreme” divide.

Brodey concludes, “Their entire brand was premised on the idea that they’re ‘tough on crime’ but now they’re running behind a standard-bearer who is indicted for obstruction of justice,” [Democratic strategist Jesse] Ferguson said. “How long before they have to run an ‘I’m not a crook’ ad?”

Trump’s Post-Indictment Rant Declares a Second Insurrection

I try to limit my exposure to Donald Trump’s speeches to the minimum necessary to do my job. But his reaction to his second criminal indictment was important, as I explained at New York:

Amid all the speculation as to how multiple criminal indictments will affect Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign, a crucial evolution in the former president’s rhetoric and strategy has occurred. As he made clear in a rage-soaked speech to adoring followers at his Bedminster golf club following his arraignment in Miami on Tuesday, his comeback bid has a new focus. It’s no longer “backward-looking” toward the imagined 2020 election theft. Now, it’s about Trump’s present (perceived) persecution by Joe Biden and various officials in the U.S. justice system and his plans to throw all of his persecutors into prison. Jim Newell got it right at Slate in predicting that the Bedminster rant was a preview of many campaign speeches to come:

“To turn his (second) indictment from a primary liability into an asset, he has to alter the contours of what the primary is fought on — what should be done about the corrupt FBI? The corrupt DOJ? On which charges should Joe Biden be prosecuted?

“He’s well on his way.”

The former president will probably continue talking about various policy proposals, and he’ll almost certainly keep insulting his Republican rivals for the White House. But the central argument his campaign will make from now on is that all other concerns flow from his challenge to the criminals running the country, who have made him their preeminent target. A Trump victory, and only a Trump victory, can keep “radical left” predators from feasting on the regular citizens the former president is bravely protecting with his very life and liberty. What else can such lines from his Bedminster speech mean?

“If the communists get away with this [Trump’s indictment], it won’t stop with me. They won’t hesitate to ramp up their persecution of Christians, pro-life activists, parents attending school board meetings, and even future Republican candidates … We must end it permanently and we must end it immediately.

“They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedoms … They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you … I’m the only one who can save this nation because you know that they aren’t coming after me, they’re coming after you, and I just happen to be standing in their way, and I will never be moving.”

No wonder some of Trump’s most fervent supporters seem to confuse him with Jesus Christ, given his self-presentation as the suffering savior of his nation. But he’s a savior who brings not peace but the sword, as he made especially clear at Bedminster, echoing words he posted at Truth Social the previous day (per The Hill):

“Now that the ‘seal’ is broken, in addition to closing the border & removing all of the ‘criminal’ elements that have illegally invaded our country, making America energy independent & even dominant again, & immediately ending the war between Russia & Ukraine, I will appoint a real special ‘prosecutor’ to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the USA, Joe Biden, the entire Biden crime family, & all others involved with the destruction of our elections, borders, & country itself!

“I will totally obliterate the deep state … and I know exactly who they are.”

How does professed neo-MAGA tough guy Ron DeSantis compete with that? Maybe he won’t even try. Trump’s efforts to make the Republican primary all about himself got an immediate assist from rival Vivek Ramaswamy, who just prior to the Miami indictment challenged all of Trump’s opponents to match his pledge to pardon Trump immediately if any of them win the presidency. But wouldn’t a self-pardon by Trump — much like Napoleon crowning himself emperor in 1804 — be more satisfying to the vengeance-minded, particularly when combined with the promised retribution against Biden’s “Department of Injustice” and the shadowy “communists” and media liars behind them.

At Bedminster, Trump called the occasion of his second indictment “a day that will go down in infamy,” choosing the words FDR famously applied to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. More precisely, it can be called the day Trump’s second attempted insurrection formally began with an unsparing attack on the entire system of justice and all the laws making his supposed persecution possible. As on January 6, 2021, Trump is now regularly treating his grasp on the White House as a life-or-death proposition for democracy, freedom, and American greatness. His rhetoric is both self-pitying and savagely vengeful. And heavily armed “patriots” are undoubtedly hearing the call of destiny once again. In some respects, the threat of MAGA violence has actually grown worse, as Dahlia Lithwick observed after watching the reaction to Trump’s indictment:

“For those who maintain that Donald Trump is an innocent man, subject to an unjust witch hunt at the hands of deep state actors who covered up Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden’s criminal conduct, it’s go time. As Rep. Andy Biggs put it on Twitter the night Trump was indicted: ‘We have now reached a war phase. Eye for an eye.’

“The promise of violence shimmers in the air.”

The Republicans seeking to end Trump’s political career really are bringing knives to a gun fight; they are prepared to fight a campaign, not an ongoing, slow-motion insurrection, particularly when so many of them accept most of Trump’s claims about the deep and incorrigible “evil” of Biden and his party. They certainly can’t expect that Trump will fight them fairly; in the minds of his large band of core supporters, he is literally on a mission from God. Is there any reason to believe that Trump will concede defeat if he loses the upcoming primaries? Not really, especially when you remember that he revoked his concession in Iowa in 2016, deciding to accuse Ted Cruz of “stealing” the caucuses.

It goes without saying that if Trump does win the GOP presidential nomination, his general-election campaign will be unequaled in savagery. Nothing short of a historic Biden landslide (if even that) will dissuade him from another challenge to the results, ending more likely than not in more violence, perhaps this time not confined to Washington, D.C. Speaking to Georgia Republicans, MAGA election-denier Kari Lake was not ambiguous at all:

“I have a message tonight for [U.S. attorney general] Merrick Garland, and Jack Smith, and Joe Biden. And the guys back there in the fake news media, you should listen up as well, this one’s for you.

“If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me.

“And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That’s not a threat — that’s a public service announcement.

“We will not let you lay a finger on President Trump. Frankly, now is the time to cling to our guns and our religion.”

We’ve been forewarned. It’s going to be a very long presidential election; And Democrats are being called on to stop another insurrection.


Political Strategy Notes

In “If Democrats Win Back the House, They Will Have John Roberts to Thank,”New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes: “If Democrats take back control of the House in 2024 after having lost it in 2022, analysts may well look back to a Supreme Court decision announced last week, Allen v. Milligan, as crucial to the party’s victory. This is because the Milligan decision will quite possibly result in the replacement of as many as five majority white Republican districts with majority-minority Democratic districts, and that’s for starters….The court’s ruling in Milligan specifically requires Alabama to create a second House district in order to provide an opportunity for a Black candidate to win. The decision is an unexpected affirmation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a development that immediately scrambled calculations being made about key House races across the nation….David Wasserman, the senior House analyst for the Cook Political Report, announced on Twitter that “in the wake of the SCOTUS Alabama decision, we’re shifting five House ratings in Democrats’ direction. It’s very likely two formerly Solid R seats will end up in Solid D.”….Milligan, Wasserman continued, “could reverberate across the Deep South leading to the creation of new Black-majority, strongly Democratic seats in multiple states.”….While more districts in other states could be added, depending on the outcome of further litigation, the Cook Report changed the “solid R” ratings of two Alabama and two Louisiana districts to “tossup” and the tossup rating of a Democratic-held seat in North Carolina, to “Lean D.”…If Democrats can gain five seats, it will critically affect the balance of power in Washington.”

Edsall also quotes Harvard Law professor Nicholas Stephanopolis, who says: “First, it means that Section 2 remains fully operative as a bulwark against racial vote dilution; second, it signals to conservative lower courts that they need to rule in favor of plaintiffs on facts like those in Milligan; third, it takes off the table arguments that Section 2 must be narrowly construed to avoid constitutional problems; and fourth, if Section 2 is constitutional, so should be other laws targeting racial disparities….It’s near-certain that Alabama will have a new Black opportunity (and Democratic) district by 2024, and this is also likely in Georgia and Louisiana. There may now be successful Section 2 claims in Texas, too. Milligan further complicates the looming Republican partisan gerrymander in North Carolina. And Milligan weakens Florida’s defense for eliminating a Black opportunity district around Jacksonville, which hinges on race-conscious districting being unconstitutional. Put it all together and at least 2-3, and quite possibly more, congressional districts are likely to change hands because of Milligan.”

Edsall quotes another Harvard professor, Lawrence H. Tribe, who cautioned in an email to Edsall, “First, nobody should believe the hype that this June’s Milligan decision has definitively rescued the Voting Rights Act from the dustbin to which the Roberts Court has been busy relegating it ever since Shelby County v. Holder cut the preclearance heart out of the Act a decade ago on constitutional grounds” Edsall explains, “In practice, Tribe argued, Milligan “left the preclearance provision of Section 5 a dead letter and kept in place the crippling interpretation of Section 2 set forth in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.” But, Tribe continued, “Allen v. Milligan remains highly significant as an essential reminder that the court doesn’t exist in an isolation booth, unaffected by public reactions to its decisions that venture too far from the mainstream of legal and social thought.”….Roberts and Kavanaugh, in Tribe’s view, chose not to press the case against race-based redistricting in part because of “the controversy unleashed by the court in its shattering abortion ruling in Dobbs last June, coupled with other unrestrained shocks to the system delivered by the court in the landmark cases involving guns and climate change, and aggravated by the ethical stench swirling about the court as a result of improprieties.”….These developments, Tribe continued, “almost certainly had an impact, however subconscious, on the chief justice and on Justice Kavanaugh, who has increasingly sought to distance himself from the hard right.”….”Tribe warned that respite will be brief:

In a court that seems poised in the Harvard University and North Carolina University cases to interpret the Equal Protection Clause as a demand that government be blind to race, there remains a distinct danger that Section 2 will eventually be held flatly unconstitutional, a possibility that the Milligan ruling did not permanently foreclose and that several Justices pointedly underscored.

Even a cynic, Tribe wrote, “would have to concede that the court, and the country, dodged a deadly bullet in Milligan, something I view as worth celebrating. But that the gun remains loaded remains a cause for deep concern.”

If you are wondering how Trump’s legal meltdown is playing out with voters, Domenico Montanaro explains at nor.org: “There is a strange political divergence taking place that’s made possible by American information echo chambers….Republicans, whose main source of information comes from conservative media, are saying they believe Trump. But the opposite is true for the rest of the country, including the group of voters who largely decide elections – independents who only lean toward one party or the other….Swing voters view Trump as toxic, and Republican strategists and pollsters say he’s a main reason why the party has underperformed in the last three election cycles.That electability message hasn’t filtered down to the rest of the party though….”There’s this phenomenon that happens every time Trump is impeached or indicted, and I call it the ‘rally-round-Trump effect,’ where voters sort of share his grievance,” GOP pollster Sarah Longwell told NPR’s Morning Editionon Monday….Longwell is no Trump fan. But she hosts focus groups of Republican voters and is clear-eyed about Trump’s hold on the party. She told Morning Editionthat only two of the 50 voters she’s talked to over several months said another indictment would make them deviate from Trump. Nineteen said it would endear them more to him….In the limited polling since the indictment came out, that has been born out. A CBS/YouGov poll found that double the number of likely Republican primary voters said an indictment would change their view for the better (14%) than for the worse (7%). (Sixty-one percent said it wouldn’t change their view of him.)….The CBS poll found 80% of Republicans said Trump should still be able to be president even if he’s convicted….A minority of Republicans also said they believed it was a national security risk if Trump kept nuclear or military documents, but 80% of everyone else said it was serious. That just so clearly shows the fork in this political road….An ABC/Ipsos poll showed that the percentage of people saying this indictment is serious went up from 52% to 61%, as compared to the charges in New York stemming from hush-money payments Trump made to allegedly cover up affairs he was having….More than 6 in 10 independents said they think the charges were serious compared to slightly more than half after the New York indictment in April. And there was some movement among Republicans, too — 38% described these charges as serious compared to just 21% in April….But, importantly, there was no statistical change in how many thought Trump should or should not be charged. It’s nearly identical after the New York charges — half say he should be charged, a third or slightly more say he should not. And half also think the charges are politically motivated with independents split, which signals a big messaging fight ahead….”The question is, is how many more indictments are going to come,” Longwell asked, “and is it going to be a case where, because of all of Trump’s legal troubles, he’s the only person who ever gets talked about?”

Teixeira On Long-Term Strategy for Dems

An Excerpt from “A long-term success strategy for Democrats, with Ruy Teixeira,” a transcript of Geoff Kabaservice’s interview for the Niskanen Center of Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot:

Political Strategy Notes

At Axios, Alex Thompson has some tips re “Trump’s survive-the-unsurvivable plan,” which Dems may want to check out: “Trump has had a lot of practice surviving the unsurvivable. So his team has developed a playbook to repeat during bad news.

  • Pre-release: Trump will preempt any damaging announcement by releasing new information himself beforehand to try to blunt the impact of coming revelations.
  • Whataboutism: Trump will try to muddy the waters by pointing to any mistakes — real, exaggerated, or false — by his opponents.
  • Martyrdom: He will tell his supporters that any allegations against him are part of a larger conspiracy against his cause to fight the establishment.
  • Solidarity: Even before all the facts are known, Trump has his allies hit the airwaves to claim that he is innocent or his enemies are corrupt.
  • Shamelessness: Trump never hides or acts embarrassed, even in the face of damning information.
  • Flood the zone online: Trump’s team prepares large volumes of content ahead of time to pump out on social media.
  • Raise big money: Never waste a chance to raise money — especially if the Justice Department indicts him for obstruction and mishandling classified materials.
  • Go apocalyptic: “In the end, they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you — and I’m just standing in their way,” Trump said Saturday at a rally in Columbus, Ga., in his first appearance since the Florida indictment. He also said: “This is the final battle.”

The big picture: Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. He’s the only former president to be indicted on federal charges. And he expects to be indicted at least once more — this time as part of his efforts to overturn his election loss in 2020….Zoom in: Former and current Trump aides often don’t defend Trump’s conduct — but believe that politics are on his side in part because of his ability to frame himself as a martyr for his voters’ larger cause.”

From Dan Brodey’s Daily Beast profile of Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Ted Cruz: “In an interview with The Daily Beast, Allred previewed all the themes his challenge will feature: Cruz’s objection to the 2020 election outcome after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, his opposition to legislation to prevent a default on the debt and to fund high-tech manufacturing, his coziness with far-right culture warriors, his zeal for the conservative media spotlight, and, yes, Cancun….The indelible image of Cruz returning to a storm-stricken Texas—where millions of his constituents were cold and without power in February 2021—from a family vacation in the Mexican resort city is, unsurprisingly, the apotheosis of Allred’s case against the incumbent. He calls it the “perfect encapsulation of how Ted Cruz sees himself as a public servant.”….Allred is also quick to mention he has won tough races before—he flipped a traditionally Republican seat in the Dallas suburbs in 2018….Allred, a Black man raised by a single mother who went from playing in the NFL to being a voting rights lawyer, is a polished communicator, said Rottinghaus, someone who “can deliver a really good message, is young and engaging, has a good story, and has bipartisan chops.”….In the 2024 election cycle, in which Democrats are defending their narrow Senate majority in daunting states like West Virginia, Texas actually represents the party’s best chance to flip a Republican-held seat, meaning the race will likely draw national attention…..In 2018, he defeated longtime incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in a historically Republican suburban district by six points, one of the key data points of the Trump-era partisan political realignment. The people who voted for him that year, Allred said, “are no longer going to be voting for Ted Cruz.”….To underscore his broad appeal, the congressman is quick to note that he has been endorsed by both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and organized labor, traditionally two redoubts for the center-right and the center-left, respectively. “I’m not a generic Democrat,” Allred said. Brodey notes that Allred will likely have primary opposition. “Roland Gutierrez, a state senator who represents the gun violence-scarred community of Uvalde, is reportedly very likely to run against Cruz. Like O’Rourke, he has grabbed headlines for confronting Texas GOP leaders who have refused to pass gun reforms, and could capture enthusiasm among Democratic voters.”

In “The Rise of Independent Voters Is a Myth: A recent poll found that nearly half of Americans identify as independent. But they’re hiding the real truth about how they vote,” Alex Shepard writes at The New Republic: “America’s largest, fastest-growing political party isn’t led by Joe Biden or Donald Trump. It’s the Independent Party. At least, that was one of the biggest takeaways from a Gallup poll this spring. It found that 49 percent of Americans—roughly the same amount as the number of voters who identify as Democrats and Republicans combined—think of themselves as “independents.” (An identical poll a month later found slightly less eye-catching numbers.) That’s a huge jump from just 20 years ago, when less than a third of respondents identified that way….“The interesting thing about independents is that they do have affiliations to political parties,” said University of Michigan political scientist Yanna Krupnikov—who, with the University of Arizona’s Samara Klar, literally wrote the book on political independents, 2016’s Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction. “They typically have a preference, but it’s potentially different from the deep-seated attachment that a strong partisan might have. But a large portion of them do seem to prefer one party or the other.” Roughly three-quarters of independent voters are known as “leaners”—they typically turn out to vote for one party or the other. Most independents, in other words, aren’t so independent….Rather, “I think what this reflects is that most Americans have a pretty negative view of the party system in general and of what’s happening in our politics,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz told The New Republic. “There’s a reluctance to openly identify oneself as a partisan and to say, come right out and say, ‘I think of myself as a Republican or a Democrat.’”….more than 60 percent of independents who lean Republican or lean Democrat have “very” or “somewhat” cold opinions of the other party, according to a 2017 Pew Research poll….Regardless, the idea that these voters are a secret army of moderates waiting to be unlocked by a centrist party is likely a myth. Many do think the parties are too extreme; certainly most believe that they’re too disputatious. And yet they hardly represent a sizable “third party”: They’re not shopping around.”

On the other hand, Julia Manchester reports that “Democratic fears grow over third-party candidates” at The Hill, and writes: “The bipartisan group “No Labels” has been working toward building the foundation to launch a “unity ticket” to run as an option separate from Democrats or Republicans as polls show a rematch between Biden and former President Trump is likely. And Cornel West, a progressive activist, became the first relatively well-known third-party candidate to enter the race….The developments come as polling shows Americans souring on the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch. A NewsNation/DDHQ poll released this week found 49 percent of respondents said it was somewhat or very likely they would consider voting for a third-party candidate in 2024 if Trump and Biden were the nominees….Meanwhile, an NBC News poll released last month found 70 percent of Americans said they did not want Biden to run for president next year, while 60 percent say they do not want Trump to run for president in 2024….“It’s almost universal,” said former Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is involved with No Labels. “People are just saying ‘350 million Americans, can’t we have a different match?’”….While West’s chances of being elected president are slim, his candidacy, like past third-party bids, could impact the results of the election….Groups like Third Way and the Lincoln Project, a group critical of the state of the GOP under Trump, have come out strongly against the prospect of a third-party candidate. The groups have particularly taken aim at No Labels….“It is a guaranteed spoiler and the risk is all on the Democratic side,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Third Way. “It’s notable that Democrats are concerned about No Label’s third-party bid and no Republican is concerned, at least no Republican who is a Trump partisan or would support another Republican nominee. All of that concern is on the Democratic side.”….“Democrats rely far more on moderate and Independent voters than Republicans in national elections,” he added….No Labels has maintained a third-party bid is viable, citing polling that shows voters do not want a Trump vs. Biden rematch. The group says its polling shows 59 percent of voters say they would consider a moderate, independent ticket in 2024 if Trump and Biden are the nominees. The group is on the ballot in Arizona, Alaska, Colorado and Oregon.”

Democrats Could Gain House Seats After Surprise Supreme Court Redistricting Decision

It’s been a while since the current Supreme Court has surprised us in a good way. So I was happy to write about it at New York:

In a welcome surprise to voting-rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Alabama congressional map on Thursday. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in Allen v. Milligan that the Republican-controlled legislature violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by failing to draw a second majority-Black district in the state, though the state’s Black population is large enough and compact enough to do so.

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who is notorious for his past work in eroding voting-rights protections; ten years ago, the Roberts-led Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA, which required federal “pre-clearance” of state voting and redistricting decisions in states with a history of racial discrimination. But the bigger surprise was a concurrence in the decision by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined four other conservative justices to set aside a lower-court decision that would have forced Alabama to create a new map before the 2022 midterms. Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion in this “shadow docket” decision emphasized the idea that the Court shouldn’t intervene in such cases close to elections. At the time it seemed that might have just been an excuse to disguise Kavanaugh’s malign attitude toward applying the VRA to redistricting cases. But now it appears he meant what he said, at least in this case.

Ultimately Roberts and Kavanaugh joined the three liberals on the Court in upholding a 1985 precedent (Thornburg v. Gingles) providing a test for determining Voting Rights Act violations in redistricting cases. In a bitter dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas accepted Alabama’s plea that the Court reverse Gingles and eliminate redistricting as an object of VRA enforcement. Thomas blasted the decision as “yet another installment in the ‘disastrous misadventure’ of this Court’s voting-rights jurisprudence” and argued for a “color-blind” approach to cases involving alleged discrimination.

The immediate effect of the decision in Allen v. Milligan will be to overturn an Alabama map that led to the election of six white Republicans and one Black Democrat to Congress. The state will be forced to create a second majority-Black (and very likely Democratic) district in the state’s Black Belt region in time for the 2024 elections. This is bad news for the Republican Party, which will be struggling to hold on to a narrow House majority. Even worse for the GOP, this decision may pave the way for fresh challenges to congressional maps in Georgia, Louisiana, and possibly other states. And there could be ripple effects in local politics and government, as the Brennan Center noted last year:

“[S]ince the Supreme Court laid out the Gingles test nearly four decades ago, Section 2 has played a far more transformative role in ensuring that voters of color have equal opportunities to participate in the political process and elect their candidates of choice at the local level than it has at the congressional or legislative levels. Just this past decade, for example, Section 2 litigation opened the door for the first time to Black representation on the city council and school board in sharply racially divided Ferguson, Missouri.”

More generally, by maintaining judicial scrutiny of racial gerrymandering, the fragile Court majority declined to give full rein to lawmakers determined to abuse their power in drawing maps for the U.S. House and for themselves. The Supreme Court has already taken the federal courts out of the business of policing partisan gerrymandering. So going forward, you can expect the Republicans who rely on marginalizing minority voters in order to hold on to power to work overtime to deny or hide racial calculations.

Is Trump at Long Last Toast, and How Should Dems Respond?

It’s too early to assess the political damage to Trump resulting from his recent and pending indictment(s), and more importantly for Dems to define a new 2024 strategy. But the damage looks substantial enough for Dems to begin thinking about it.

In “How Trump’s new indictment could affect 2024,” WaPo’s Aaron Blake limns the damage to Trump, as revealed by previous opinion polls: “

What seems clear is that more Americans, Republicans included, view these charges as serious. And while another indictment might not be enough to sink Trump in a GOP primary, this one for now appears more problematic, especially for his general-election hopes.

….The first thing to note: As with previous polls, people are less concerned about the charges Trump faces in Manhattan. While 52 percent of Americans regard it as a “serious crime” to falsify business records to conceal hush money payments to an adult-film star — the lowest percentage of five issues tested — 65 percent say the same about taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them….Among just Republicans, while 28 percent say the former is serious, 42 percent say the latter is.

Much also depends on how much people would regard a conviction as being disqualifying. And that’s where this poll is especially helpful.

The survey also asked whether people thought Trump should be allowed to serve as president if he’s convicted of a “serious crime.” Just 23 percent overall said he should be, while 62 percent said he shouldn’t be. Republicans were more evenly split, with 39 percent saying a serious crime would be disqualifying.

The overlap between these two questions — how many people view serious crimes as disqualifying and regard these particular things as serious crimes — is also crucial.

Blake goes on to cite a YouGov poll which “combined the data” and found:

Regarding the Manhattan indictment, 41 percent of independents and 44 percent overall view the alleged crime as serious and also say it would be disqualifying.

Those numbers go up to 49 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in the classified documents case.

That’s nearly half of voters who, to the extent the case is proved in their minds, say Trump would be disqualified.

Blake adds, “this is people saying he shouldn’t even be considered for office in that case — not just that he will have done something seriously wrong.”

Of course, the shelf life of public attitudes toward Trump this week could be ancient history in a few more weeks. Or, it could get a lot worse pretty quick.

The Biden Administration will respond intelligently. The short term strategy is to STFU and allow impartial justice take its course. Other Democratic leaders will make comments disparaging Trump. But they should also focus their scorn on the GOP’s culture of corruption, moral decay and utter disdain for democracy, a perfect petri dish for creating their Frankenstein. The anti-Trump rank and file progressives are already in gloatfest mode – part of what 8 years of Frankenstein’s rampage has accomplished. But every Democrat should repeat the “let impartial justice take it’s course” mantra.

It is more possible today that one of the other Republicans will win the GOP presidential nomination. But let’s not be shocked if that doesn’t happen. Regardless, Democrats should focus on building unity, affirming their commitment to democratic values and principles and mobilizing a record-level turnout to end the exhausting mayhem of the Republican fiasco.

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writes that “the GOP’s push to tighten abortion laws is generally at odds with public sentiment overall. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that in areas where abortion was prohibited in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, the share of people who think it should be easier to get an abortion rose from 31 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2023. There was a similar uptick in states where abortion was restricted or the law was being disputed in the courts. The poll also found that a majority of Americans (62 percent) think that states are making it too hard to get an abortion, including a substantial minority (39 percent) of Republicans. A majority (53 percent) of Republicans also think it should either be easier (20 percent) or about as difficult as it is now (33 percent) to get an abortion in their area, while less than half (44 percent) think it should be harder. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans overall are much more likely to say that the Democratic Party represents their view on abortion (42 percent) compared to the Republican Party (26 percent)….None of this polling points to much of an appetite for more abortion restrictions, even among a solid chunk of Republicans. And it’s especially difficult for presidential candidates to find a position that both pleases anti-abortion advocates and isn’t broadly unpopular. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in April found that only 21 percent of Americans support a national ban on abortion without exceptions, and just over one-third (35 percent) are in favor of a national ban at six weeks’ gestation. The idea of banning abortion nationally — even at a later point in pregnancy, like 15 weeks — seems to be fairly politically toxic: A YouGov/Economist poll conducted last fall found that there was more support for establishing a national right to abortion (51 percent) than banning abortion at 15 weeks, while allowing states to enact stricter laws on their own (39 percent).”

In her article, “Moving Beyond the Good Ol’ Boys Club: Recent Trends in Women’s Representation in State Legislatures” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Carah Ong Whaley writes: “The percentage of women in state legislatures has increased in recent years. However, there is still a significant gender gap in most states as women have not reached parity in representation….The majority of women in state legislatures are Democrats. While more Republican women ran for office in 2022 than in previous years, that didn’t amount to closing the gender gap in representation….The percentage of women in state legislatures has increased more in Western and Northeastern states than in Midwestern and Southern states. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the political climate, the level of motivation and activism among women, and the availability of resources for women’s campaigns….Good politics and policy depend on diverse perspectives and lived experiences, but women remain underrepresented at all levels of government. As this analysis shows, the number of women in state legislatures is increasing, and this is a positive trend. However, as this analysis also demonstrates, progress is not a given and there are clearly states where more attention to closing the gender gap in representation is needed….For women to achieve parity in representation, there are structural challenges that states can address, including for example, by increasing salaries for legislators and providing stipends for childcare. There are also ways in which political parties and organizations can address the challenges women and other minoritized candidates face by expanding recruitment, encouragement, and training efforts, while increasing financial support for women to run for office. Openings and incumbency are also issues, and may require encouraging more women to challenge candidates from their own parties in primaries.”

In “As the Suburbs Go, So Goes America,” New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Over the past half century, the percentage of Black Americans living in the nation’s suburbs has doubled, a shift that is changing the balance of political power in key regions of the country….“Since 1970, the share of Black individuals living in suburbs of large cities has risen from 16 to 36 percent,” Alexander W. Bartik and Evan Mast, economists at the University of Illinois and Notre Dame, write in their 2021 paper “Black Suburbanization: Causes and Consequences of a Transformation of American Cities.”…“This shift,” they point out, “is as large as the post-World War II wave of the Great Migration.”….In 1990, 33.9 percent of Black Americans in what are known as metropolitan statistical areas lived in the suburbs. By 2020, that grew to 51.2 percent, a 17.3-point shift over the same period; the share of Asian Americans in metropolitan statistical areas living in suburbs grew by 13.2 percentage points; and the share of Hispanics by 13.8 percentage points.” Commentators used to talk about “white flight” to describe the phenomenon of large numbers of white families moving from the cities to the suburbs and exurbs, usually implying out-migration driven by racism. But the Black exodus from the cities described by Edsall raises the possibility of something new. Call it “green flight” — families of all races simply wanting more of the natural world to enjoy, the forests, clean air and reduced traffic that you can still find in many rural communities.” There are political reverberations.

Edsall continues, “A study of the shifting politics of suburbia from the 1950s to the present, “Not Just White Soccer Moms: Voting in Suburbia in the 2016 and 2020 Elections,” by Ankit Rastogi and Michael Jones-Correa, both at the University of Pennsylvania, found that from the 1950s to the start of the 1990s,

Residing in racially homogeneous, middle-class enclaves, White suburban voters embraced a set of policy positions that perpetuated their racial and class position. Since the 1990s, however, the demographics of suburbs have been changing, with consequent political shifts.

As a result, by 2020, “suburban voters were more likely to back Biden, the Democratic candidate, than his Republican counterpart Trump.”…Why, the authors ask?

White suburban precincts showed greater support for Biden in 2020 than for Clinton in 2016. Our analysis indicates, however, that if all suburban voters had voted like white suburbanite precincts, Trump would have carried metropolitan suburbs in 2020.

So what saved the day for Biden? “Democrats carried metropolitan suburbs in 2020 because of suburban voters of color.” Edsall concludes, “America is undergoing a racial and ethnic upheaval that will profoundly shape election outcomes. On first glance, the trends would appear to favor Democrats, but there is no guarantee.”